Educating the next generation of engineers is at the very core of our mission, and preparing students to take on the challenges of the 21st century compels us to think anew about both what we teach and how we teach it. Engineers increasingly encounter problems that call for solutions beyond any one discipline’s boundaries. Many of the most important real-world opportunities demand teamwork and integrated expertise across many technical areas.
Along with colleagues across campus, Stanford Engineering must explore what the engineers of the future need to know and how best to prepare students for lives of impact. Many experiments over the past 10 years have provided insights into the benefits of active learning, the limitations and potential of online learning, and the excitement generated by project-based activities. Now is the time to think systematically about how to incorporate the best ideas into the undergraduate and master’s curriculum.
The engineering core curriculum will evolve, to ensure we are providing our students with both deep disciplinary insights and the skills to communicate, design, and work in teams. In addition to disciplinary expertise, our students must develop the ethical sense to consider the consequences of their work and tailor solutions to meet human needs. We must integrate these elements both within Stanford Engineering and through deeper and more meaningful connections to the humanities and social sciences.
Indeed, as the field of engineering broadens, preparing our students for a future of impact will mean teaching them to discern rather than dictate what is needed, and tailor solutions to the diverse local preferences of our global village. Students will gain the fundamentally important understanding of the context, constraints, and implications of engineering problems and solutions. As a great engineering school housed within a world-class liberal arts institution, we have the opportunity to define the humanist engineer.