September 2004

Copyright © 2004 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., and Bethany S. Oberst, Ph.D.



1 - International developments

2 - US developments

3 - Distance education, technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment

6 – Journals

7 – Meetings



1 - International developments

Iraq ’s universities struggle against multiple odds – Iraqi universities have been hampered in their recovery this past year because of lack of funds, inappropriate leadership and the escalating threat of violence, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by Christina Asquith.  This major article describes the sequence of events between April 2003 and August 2004, the succession of both US and Iraqi leaders in charge of the recovery, conflicting priorities, the politicization of the recovery process in Iraq and the US , and the growing threat of fundamentalist religious groups within the universities.  A major shortfall of funds has been particularly harmful, as higher education had to struggle to receive even 15% of what was allotted to primary and secondary school recovery.  Dr. John Agresto, the leader of the US team starting in September 2003, knew little about the Middle East before being appointed to Baghdad, and had a preference for democracy building over reconstituting the science and mathematics programs which are the traditional strengths of Iraqi higher education.  As Dr. Agresto took office, a new higher education minister was appointed, Dr. Ziad Abdel Razzaq Aswad, a professor of petroleum engineering who advocated a return to the constraints and centralized authority of the ousted regime.  Now, over a year later, the universities have re-opened, but operate under a growing menace from militia who have come onto campuses to advocate a return to fundamentalist values over the hope of democracy.  (See

Japan improving engineering education – Japan is working to improve the quality of its engineering education, which has slipped in recent years so that grads are no longer guaranteed jobs, according to an article in the September ASEE Prism by Lucille Craft. Two interesting quotes from Japanese faculty members highlight underlying problems: “The biggest difference between Japanese and US students is (ours) lack ambition and vitality”; and “Japanese people are not trained to come up with new ideas”. One major driving force for engineering education reform comes from concerned employers, who feel that current engineering graduates are coming from programs with dumbed-down standards, adopted by universities to attract students as the decreasing birthrate in Japan has limited the applicant pool. (See  

China fires professor for plagiarism Peking University recently dismissed a professor for plagiarism, in a move interpreted by some as indicating China ’s new resolve to remedy an increasingly serious problem, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Huang Zongying, an associate professor of American literature, was found to have plagiarized substantial portions of twenty research articles he published between 1999 and 2003. The Chinese Ministry of Education released regulations attempting to combat academic corruption.  (See

Tech economy impacts whole country – In the late 1990’s, Finland ’s economy sprinted ahead of its neighbors due to the runaway success of Nokia in the mobile phone industry. But recently the company has stumbled, according to an article in the September 6th International Herald Tribune by Alan Cowell – and Finland ’s economy is no longer No. 1 in the region. A mood of gloom and introspection has set in, with Finns lowering their expectations for technology and for Nokia. While the company is still the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world, its share of the market has slipped from 35% to 30% in the past year. Some blame the decline on Nokia’s slow move from its traditional candy-bar shaped phones to the now more popular clamshell designs. This year, for the first time, more people will leave Finland ’s workforce than will enter it. These concerns have turned many young people cautious, with technical students looking for low risk jobs. (See

Professor’s arrest ends China program - The Georgia Institute of Technology has canceled a summer program in China in response to the arrest of one of its faculty members there in July. According to an article by Paul Mooney in the September 10th Chronicle, the institution concluded that it did not have adequate academic freedom and personal safety in China to continue its program. The professor who was arrested was detained for two weeks and then deported to the United States . Georgia Tech said that it hoped to "revisit the decision in the not-too-distant future," and that it hoped to continue academic and educational cooperation with institutions in China . (See

Kenyan writer attacked in Nairobi – A Kenyan writer-scholar from the University of California at Irvine was injured, along with his wife, when they returned to his homeland for the first time in 22 years, writes Wachira Kigotho in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Attackers forced their way into their guarded apartment and beat Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Mary Njeeri Ngugi.  The writer has been outspoken in his criticism of the previous political regime in Kenya , but had agreed to return home when a new government was put in place.  Police were investigating whether the attack was connected to a religious sect that Mr. Ngugi has frequently criticized.  (See

Mexican government retains graduate students – A combination of carrot and stick approaches is being used by Mexico to encourage students to attend domestic graduate programs rather than going abroad, according to an article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in the August 20th Science. The government has been cutting back on scholarships for graduate studies abroad for five years, based not primarily on the need to save money but on promoting the ability of domestic institutions to offer world-class graduate programs. Since 2000, the number of international scholarships has been cut from 1469 to 691 this year.  Critics are concerned that these policies are depriving Mexican students of the best educations in many fields, and could hurt the country’s science and technology future. (See 

Chinese student claims extortion by university officials – The family of a student admitted into the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics by virtue of her scores on the entrance examination was reportedly shaken down for the equivalent of $12,000 in order to guarantee her a seat.  When her family took the issue to the China Central Television, and the station reported it in prime-time, a nation-wide scandal erupted.  Despite protests by the university’s president that the incident was an isolated event, many claim that such things occur all too frequently.  The Ministry of Education issued a statement forbidding the practice, writes Paul Mooney for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

India set to open borders to higher education collaboration India ’s new government has reversed its predecessor’s policy which forbade universities to collaborate with foreign institutions without the express consent of the government.  This move goes along with a general liberalizing of university education in the country, as it approaches membership in the WTO in 2005.  As a member of WTO, India will be permitted to run educational institutions abroad, but will also have to permit other countries to operate within its borders.  India is already engaged in discussions with the United Arab Emirates , Egypt , and Singapore about collaboration, writes Shailaja Neelakantan for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Gates invests in India The investment fund that manages the personal fortune of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is turning its attention to the Indian securities market, according to a September 6th article in the Financial Times by Khozem Merchant. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System recently cleared regulatory hurdles to allow it to invest in Indian securities, and the Gates fund is following suit. These moves represent a big show of confidence in India as a safe destination for large long-term funds. The Gates fund does not invest in tech stocks anywhere. India and China , among the fastest growing economies in the world, have become increasingly attractive to large portfolio funds. (See

Russia ’s oil-and-gas institutes rely on industry support – The people interviewed by Bryon MacWilliams for his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Russia ’s oil and gas institutes were consistently frank, except when asked to reveal the exact amount of money they receive from the oil and gas industry to run their schools.  Otherwise they made clear that these schools are run by and for the industries which are responsible for about 25% of the country’s economy.  The industries pay for facilities, equipment, other material support, to supplement the meager 20% of the institutional budgets which comes from the state.  In return, students are engaged in industry-specific research, are committed to employment back in their home regions with sponsoring companies, and follow a curriculum narrowly tailored to the needs of gas and oil production and little else. There are a half dozen state universities dedicated solely to the industries, as well as 29 other institutions that have departments related to gas and oil.  Students enroll expecting to cash in with ensured lucrative employment.  The truth, however, is that the field risks being saturated within the next decade, as greater efficiency means fewer jobs required to maintain current levels of production.  (See

China is a new hotbed of research – Multinational companies such as Microsoft are setting up hundreds of research laboratories in China, according to an article in the September 13th New York Times by Chris Buckley. The labs vary in size and ambition, but as they multiply and expand they may help China grow from mostly a user and copier of advanced technologies developed elsewhere into a powerful incubator of its own, industry executives and experts say. And such a shift may eventually reshape applied research, jobs and policies in the US and other developed countries. But planting and nurturing corporate labs is a delicate business, and in China they are buffeted by concerns about protecting patents, training and retaining researchers, and managing the physical and cultural distances between such labs and headquarters. (See  

Europe attempts to stem brain drain – In an extensive article by Aisha Labi, the Chronicle of Higher Education examined Europe ’s efforts to keep their best researchers from migrating to the US .  The actual extent of “brain drain” is debatable: some countries cite statistics proving a serious problem of out-migration of their best researchers; some believe that the problem is being exaggerated.  Conclusions appear to depend as much on anecdotal information as on data.  The attractions of US research have to do with access to innovative approaches, a less hierarchical system of professional advancement, the strength of the peer review system and merit-based funding, and better opportunities for women, among others.  The Europeans are countering with larger research grants, some administered through the European Union, some through national programs, and freedom from the increasingly unattractive atmosphere generated by US President Bush and the unpopular Iraq war.  (See

Irish version of NSF has success in attracting researchers – If the Science Foundation Ireland sports some characteristics of the US National Science Foundation, it is not a coincidence. Its director is a 20 year NSF veteran, William Harris, who now is dedicated to attracting the best research minds to Ireland .  One potent strategy is to offer larger amounts of lengthier funding, according to Aisha Labi writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The SFI budget is $782 million (as compared with the $5.58 billion NSF budget).  (See

Muppets reign – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker were voted the most popular screen scientists in the UK according to a September 6 report.  They beat out such rivals as Dr. Evil, Q and Mr. Spock by a wide margin.  (See

New Zealand educators ready to defend use of “university” title – An Australian newspaper is being sued by the owner of the University of Newlands, a New Zealand-based distance learning operation that claims to be preparing to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.  The name of the operation was mentioned in an article on degree mills published on The Australian’s website last year.  Rochelle M. Forrester, Newlands’ owner, reacted by claiming defamation in New Zealand ’s High Court.  The Australian publisher asked to have the suit dismissed, since it is Sydney-based, but the court rejected that argument, saying that any country in which a person downloaded material from the Internet could have jurisdiction, following a controversial precedent in Australian courts.  New Zealand ’s eight accredited universities are likely to join in an effort to prohibit inaccurate use of the word “university.” David Cohen reported for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Canadian engineering student dies in solar car tour – The Canadian Solar Car Tour was cancelled in August when a University of Toronto mechanical engineering student was killed driving his university’s entry car.  Six universities had entered cars into the 6,800 mile tour.  Witnesses say that the Faust II suddenly veered out of control and ran into a mini-van in the opposing traffic lane.  The cars had all been thoroughly inspected, had received special permits and were driven by tested drivers wearing special harnesses.  (See


2 - US developments

Woman scientist set to become president of MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( USA ) recently appointed Susan Hockfield, the provost of Yale University , to succeed Charles M. Vest as president.  Ms. Hockfield, a neuroscientist, will be the first woman to hold that position, and further breaks with a tradition of engineers serving as president.  She has already declared her interest in strengthening collaboration between the various units of MIT in order to exploit the new disciplines which are emerging in the spaces between engineering and the sciences.  According to Julianne Basinger, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Hockfield said she will also support women faculty and students at the institution, as did her predecessor, who began to address gender problems in 1999.  (See

US government considering easing Visas Mantis security re-checks – In a move that pleasantly surprised some higher education groups, the US government announced that it was considering streamlining security clearances for previously admitted foreign students and scholars working in sensitive research areas, according to Kelly Field, reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The issue is an extension of the Visas Mantis security check: the extension would likely mean that people who once have been cleared would not have to be completely re-checked if they exited the US only to return a few months later.  The most helpful extension would be for the duration of the person’s study or research assignment.  (See

NSF leadership timing – The current acting head of the US National Science Foundation, Arden Bement, has a fixed end date for his appointment under legislation which limits such appointments to 210 days, according to a note by Jeffrey Mervis in the September 3rd Science. September 18th is specified as the end date for Bement’s service at NSF. At the time of his appointment in February, it was noted that he would return full-time to his regular position as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology when a permanent director for NSF was named. A spokesman for the White House has said that the Administration intends to nominate a permanent NSF director prior to the end of Bement’s temporary appointment. No name has surfaced to date, and the silence is making the scientific community increasingly anxious. (See 

Report recommends study of high school exit exams – The Center on Education Policy (USA) issued a report recommending that states which have high school exit examinations as a graduation requirement should study the effects of such exams, including whether the tests might induce at-risk students to drop out or take the GED in order to avoid the exams.  The report points out that of the 25 states with such tests or planning them, only one, Georgia, has an exam that functions to ensure that students are prepared for college, according to Brendon Fleming writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Controversial scholar of Islam has US visa revoked – When the US government revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan in early August, it prevented him from taking his new position as the Henry R. Luce professor of religion, conflict and peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. It also started a wave of protests over what many see as an effort to suppress ideas unpopular in the US Department of Homeland Security.  No reason for the withdrawal of his visa has been offered, leaving room for all types of speculation.  Ramadan has been listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.  He has been an articulate leader in debates on Islam and philosophy, and has been a professor at Switzerland ’s University of Fribourg .  He is well known in Europe , where his writings and speeches have found a broad audience in the substantial Muslim population.  Last year Ramadan attacked “French Jewish intellectuals” who blindly support Israel , but a short time later, he also critiqued Muslims who condemn all Jews. Notre Dame appointed a committee to examine all of Ramadan’s writings, in English, French and Arabic, and they found him innocent of extremism.  (See

Charter schools lagging behind – The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools, according to an article by Diana Jean Schemo in the August 17th New York Times. Charters are self-governing public schools, often run by private companies, which operate outside the authority of local school boards, and have greater flexibility in areas of policy, hiring and teaching techniques. Data from the US Department of Education show fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Charter schools are expected to grow in number under the new federal ‘No Child Left Behind’ law. Supporters of charter schools note that students there are often those who have been failed by traditional public schools and have transferred with serious deficits in learning. A former government official predicted that these results will make those overseeing the charter schools demand more in the way of performance. (See

Foreign graduate student admissions decline again – The second of three studies by the Council of Graduate Schools confirms that admission of foreign students to US graduate schools declined by 18% from 2003 to 2004, reports John Gravois in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The declines were greatest in countries which used to send the most students: China , India and South Korea . Foreign student admissions to engineering programs decline 24%.  Overall selectivity, however, has seen only a slight decline, perhaps because some programs are admitting fewer students.  While more difficult visa procedures since 2001 are seen to be a critical factor causing this decline, increased competition from foreign graduate schools is also important.  (See

SAT scores show little change – In the final year for the traditional SAT, a college entrance examination widely used in the USA , average combined scores (verbal and math) remained the same, at 1026 out of 1600 possible points.  The gap between white and black students remained significant (the average combined scores for whites being 1026, and for blacks, 857).  And female students continued to lag male students, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Isolde Raftery.  Next year the SAT will be a three part test, and will include a written essay, multiple choice questions on grammar, advanced math and more reading passages. The new exam will be graded on a 2400 point scale. (See

Experts seek to mediate accountability wars – The Chronicle of Higher Education recently asked eight education experts to address the thorny subject of accountability.  The six articles contain advice to policy makers and higher education leaders on how to move beyond the current battles.  Clara M. Lovett and Robert T. Mundhenk suggest the need for a new conversation between government officials and university officials in order to answer legitimate questions about costs, graduation rates and differing levels of achievement among students. In that conversation college people must be more forthcoming, and government officials open to more useful definitions of accountability.  Nancy Shulock points out that some policy makers appear to want to embarrass university leaders, as demonstrated by the punitive tone of most accountability systems.  This should be replaced, she writes, by indicators of how well each public institution is supporting its state agenda.   A set of effective institutions does not necessarily add up to a set of effective outcomes for the state that supports them. Charles B. Reed and Edward B. Rust, Jr., co-directors of the recent report, “Public Accountability for Student Learning in Higher Education: Issues and Options,” published by the Business-Higher Education Forum, advocate a more systematic approach to accountability, establishing specific roles for institutions, regional accreditation organizations, government and national research bodies, with each player understanding how they fit into the whole scheme and holding some shared values about what needs to be done, for whom and how soon.  This way, the authors state, we can improve performance and increase public confidence in higher education. Thomas Layzell writes that the critical economic and political demands being placed upon states and regions require that higher education’s accountability agenda be seen as part of a broad and integrated policy agenda worked out by public officials, business, non-profits and education.  He warns, however, that accountability systems can produce results that are taken for answers when in reality, they are merely additional questions that must be answered.  Not understanding this can mean that the wrong conclusions are drawn or that time is wasted finding solutions to non-existent problems. Joseph C. Burke advises higher education to establish a balance between academic, public and market needs and to incorporate into its accountability agenda public activities, public reporting and public quality assurance.  Carol T. Christ counsels higher education colleagues to pay attention to the real concerns that the public has about higher education: who gets in, how much it costs, whether students graduate and what jobs graduates find.  Transparency is called for in every undertaking of higher education, and an understanding that we are accountable to others beyond ourselves.  (See  

Additional fee for international students declared illegal – The University of Massachusetts late last year began charging international students a $65 processing fee to cover the costs of the international programs office, including running the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), required by the US federal government for tracking foreign students.  The Graduate Employee Organization challenged the fee as discriminatory, and recently an arbitrator agreed with them.  The University was told to stop charging the fee and to return any money already collected.  (See


3 - Distance education, technology

Quality dispute threatens alliance Differences over quality requirements are throwing into doubt a landmark alliance between Motorola and a Hong Kong electronics manufacturer, Proview International Holdings, according to an article in the September 6th Financial Times by Mure Dickie and Alexander Harney. Under the pact struck last October Proview was to manufacture a range of high-end liquid-crystal display and plasma television sets and computer displays for sale under the Motorola brand – keeping costs down by manufacturing in China . But serious differences have emerged between the two companies over the level of quality required for the products to be sold under the Motorola name – with Motorola concerned that its stringent standards will not be met. The two companies are trying to resolve their differences. (See

Internet calling advancesVoice-over-Internet service is moving ahead steadily, according to an article in the September 6th International Herald Tribune by James Fallows. Dozens of companies – including giant AT&T and startup Skype – are offering VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services at attractive prices, or free. The writer of this article states that Skype is currently the easiest, fastest and cheapest way for individuals with broadband access to begin using VoIp. One downloads free software from, adds a microphone, and talks with any other Skype user for free. Calls can also be made to non-Skype users, at a nominal charge. Skype also allows conference calls, file transfers, and instant text messages. It works best from a fully connected computer. (See  

Tablet pc’s enter the classroom – Tablet pc’s have not revolutionized computing in the two years since their introduction, but they have found extensive use in certain areas – such as health care and insurance, where they speed the processing of forms and records. Now they are moving into the classroom, a setting in which portable devices with handwriting capabilities would seem to make sense, according to an article in the September 9th New York Times by Thomas Fitzgerald.  Educators at a handful of schools, many of them private high schools, are pressing ahead with plans to issue students tablet pc's for use in English, foreign language, math, science and social studies classes. One factor that favors educators is that students seem to like tablets, especially the pen-based interface that takes the place of a mouse and keyboard. While tablets, which account for only about 1 percent of the market for notebook computers, are still generally more expensive than laptops with comparable specifications, prices have started to fall. And last month, Microsoft released an updated version of its Windows XP Tablet PC operating system that offers improved handwriting recognition, addressing one of the chief complaints about the earlier version. (See

University of Phoenix set to open in Mexico – The Apollo Group, parent to the University of Phoenix, announced that it will open centers in Mexico on the campuses of existing universities in Chihuahua, possibly as early as 2005, writes Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Instruction will be offered initially in English, although the Spanish curriculum used by the University in Puerto Rico might be adopted eventually.  The emphasis will continue to be on working students, although since early 2004 students as young as 18 have been admitted.  This move was designed to serve Mexican students who now study at the University of Phoenix across the border in the US .  The University of Phoenix currently enrolls 200,000 students, including those studying on-line.  (See

Blackboard on campus – Over half of US colleges have embraced Blackboard software to complement what happens in class, according to an article in the September 20th Business Week by Catherine Yang. The software gives students one centralized site on the Net to get course outlines, lecture notes, and reading materials. It also lets them take tests, hand in papers, watch videos, and participate in cyber-discussions that can bolster in-person lectures. It is designed to supplement classroom instruction, not replace it. In addition, it put everything from fraternities and student government to the chess club and health care online, and offers a payment system that turns student IDs into debit cards to pay for dining hall food, laundry and books. In addition to major use in US colleges, the software is gaining attention in k-12 education and foreign universities. (See  

Universities flock to invest in nanotechnology research – Nanotechnology, the current sweetheart of many a university’s director of commercial ventures, is analyzed at length by Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The University of Massachusetts at Lowell (USA) is only one of many institutions betting heavily on the future of research into matter which measures less than 100 namometers, and which promises to revolutionize everything from clothes, to computers, to solar energy, to medicine.  Intellectual property rights are an issue, with some social activists concerned that restrictive patents will hamper the use of this rapidly moving research for the public good.  Officials at the UMass Lowell see nanotechnology as the basis for an important economic revival of a region still suffering from the disappearance of the textile industry in the middle of the last century. Venture capitalists are visible throughout, attempting to position themselves favorably whatever might be the direction of subsequent discoveries and applications.  Nano is gold. (See

Logging on at 30,000 feet Airlines are starting to offer full service in-flight Internet connections, according to an article by Bob Tedeschi in the August 8th New York Times. The airline industry had planned to roll out airborne Web surfing in late 2001, but plans were postponed in the financial downturn after September 11th. Lufthansa is now offering the service on several planes equipped with satellite receivers and wireless networks, at a charge of $30 for a long-haul flight. Other airlines are expected to follow suit. A more limited e-mail service has been available on several airlines for four years. Wireless Internet connections are also growing rapidly in airport terminals and lounges, with at least half of the 50 busiest airports in the US now having wireless hot spots. (See

Scholarship in a networked environment – Efforts are underway to build on early efforts at using technology to enhance knowledge about teaching and learning, according to an article by Thomas Hatch et al in the September/October Change. Projects such as the Carnegie Knowledge Media Lab and the Visible Knowledge Project are involving a wide range of faculty in developing new methods for documenting and exchanging the intellectual work of teaching. Web sites cover placing course materials online, the scholarship of teaching online, and recent initiatives to create virtual environments that connect faculty across campuses and disciplines. Online curricula, networked databases of learning objects, and digital journals have begun to maximize the potential of networked technologies to provide a more robust and complex approach to teaching. (See

South Korean broadband wonderland – Nearly everybody in South Korea has broadband Internet access, according to an article by Peter Lewis in the September 20th Fortune. In addition to that market penetration, Korea’s broadband networks are much more robust than comparably priced DSL and cable broadband services available in US homes -  with 20 megabits per second (good for downloading high-definition television) compared to 2 megabits per second (good for downloading music). The cultural catalyst for broadband was Korea ’s passion for online gaming, but its ubiquitous availability could have a major influence on the nation’s digital future. (See Also see a related article, “Behind in Broadband” by Catherine Yang in the September 6th Business Week. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

A few good women – Women in computer science programs often feel a sense of isolation in a male-dominated field, according to an article by Marci McDonald in the August 18th Such feelings may account for the plummeting of the number of degrees in the field earned by women in recent years – down from 37% to 28% in the past two decades. Until recently, many in the high-tech industry shrugged off the female brain drain – they could fill top IT slots from abroad or from American doctoral programs, where foreign nations snag half of the PhDs. But suddenly, visa issues have clogged the foreign pipeline, and countries like India are luring their US-educated citizens back home to their own burgeoning tech centers. Now the high tech industry is increasingly interested in tapping the half of the population that has not been attracted. High tech companies are now holding seminars for women students in computer science and engineering, featuring successful role models, to counter dropout rates. (See

Mechanical engineer featured as “rising star” – Marcus D. Ashford, who this year received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, was featured as one of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s four “Rising Stars,” in an early September issue.  As profiled by reporter Robin Wilson, Ashford came from a family that valued education very highly: his parents and siblings all hold graduate degrees.  But he took time off to work in industry after earning his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.  After determining that a research career was attractive, he returned for his doctorate.  The University of Alabama snatched him up as a tenure-track assistant professor, affording him an opportunity to engage in research in his field and to have a lifestyle he and his family will enjoy.  Along the way, Ashford plans to help recruit minority graduate students, since he well recalls that there were no black engineering faculty at Louisiana State University when he attended there.  (See

Overseas party’s over – Fears of terrorism notwithstanding, more American students are expected to study abroad this year than ever, fueling campus-based hopes of a generation with a truly global perspective. But as students begin shipping out for study abroad this fall, reform is in the air. According to an article by Greg Winter in the August 23rd New York Times , US colleges are taking aim at boorish behavior by students going abroad that makes the ugly-American stereotype a reality. One college, Eckerd, is having students sign a contract “to behave in a mature, responsible manner” – with sanctions and fines to back it up. College officials say that the sheer number of students abroad – 160,000 last year – is contributing to heightened pressure from insurance companies and university lawyers to avoid problems. (See

New options for cheaper textbooks - Under fire for high prices for textbooks, publishers are pushing alternatives, according to an article in the August 24th Wall Street Journal by Stephanie Kang. The wholesale cost of textbooks has risen 35% since 1998. One company is offering online versions of 300 titles at half the cost of hard copy books. With passwords that last for the duration of a course, students access a personal bookshelf that includes all the titles they have subscribed to. They can insert bookmarks and annotations, use the table of contents to jump between chapters, and make notes on the pages. Another publisher is offering scaled down paperback versions of texts, for about half the cost. Some universities are exploring alternatives to textbooks, with course readings posted online. Another alternative is the purchase of used textbooks at popular web sites such as eBay’s and Amazon. (See

Engineering students without borders – Engineering students are traveling far and wide to improve the lot of some of the world’s poorest communities, according to an article in the September ASEE Prism by Thomas Grose. Noting that the core value of engineering is using technology in the service of humanity, the author highlights projects organized by Engineers for a Sustainable World – formerly known as Engineers Without Frontiers. (See

Virginia governor seeks to correct senior slump – In one of his first major initiatives since becoming chair of the National Governors Association, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner announced a plan to cure the senior year slump by providing fourth year high school students with opportunities to earn college credits before receiving their high school diplomas.  This would not only make better use of their time, but also relieve some of the burden on the state colleges.  Technical and certificate courses would be available as well, for students not college-bound.  Mr. Warner has obtained bi-partisan help from other governors to promote his idea, says Sara Hebel in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Value of internships - Internships by college students are a major benefit for later professional success, according to an article in the August 10th New York Times by Jennifer Lee. About 80% of graduating college seniors now have done a paid or unpaid internship, compared to 60% a decade ago. But some raise concerns that as internships rise in importance as crucial milestones along a path to success, they may be creating a class system that discriminates against students from less affluent families who have to turn down unpaid internships to earn money for college expenses. While half of internships in the US are paid or have at least a small stipend, unpaid internships are concentrated in the most competitive fields like politics, television and film. (See

Putting tech to the test – As students turn to high-tech gadgets to cheat, schools consider turning to high-tech gadgets to stop them, according to an article in the September 13th Wall Street Journal by Lauren Etter. Cheating has entered the digital age, as students swap test answers by cellphone text messages, camera phone, and pda. Some students are able to text in their pocket without even seeing their phone. Now companies are developing high-tech countermeasures to put the cheaters out of business – from gadgets that outright block cellphone signals, to some that simply sound an alarm and leave enforcement up to the proctor. (See  

MBAs for engineers – Engineers interested in business, management, and global operations now have many options, according to an article by Susan Karlin in the September IEEE Spectrum. During the last two decades, traditional MBA programs have given way to graduate degrees tailored to the business world’s increasing emphasis on technology, global expansion, and the rise in entrepreneurship. And newer MBA programs are accommodating the needs of working engineers for flexible course schedules and relevant curricula. The result is an overwhelming array of offerings for engineers seeking cross-disciplinary skills to better manage product designs and foster technological innovation. (See

Ranking of America ’s best colleges – The annual ranking of US colleges by U.S.News & World Report is contained in the August 30th issue of the magazine. The annual ranking, controversial among educators, is based on several key measures of academic quality: peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving, and graduation rate performance. The ten best national universities in the ranking are Harvard, Princeton , Yale, Penn, Duke, MIT, Stanford , Cal Tech, Columbia , and Dartmouth . Separately listed top public national universities are University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor , University of Virginia , UCLA, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill . The ranking issue of the magazine also includes several articles on getting into college. (See 


5 – Employment

Workers pay with health – Research is showing that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable effect on worker’s health, according to an article by John Schwartz in the September 6th International Herald Tribune. The resulting damage to health negatively impacts company bottom lines – as much as $300-billion each year in health care and missed work in the US. Similar stress related costs are growing in Europe , where companies are reducing once-generous vacation policies. Downsizing, rapid business expansion, non-traditional employment relationships and outsourcing add to employee stress levels. And nonwork hours have been invaded by technologies that act as a virtual leash. In surveys, 30% of workers say that they are always or often under stress, and 62% say that their job responsibilities have increased in the past six months. (See


6 – Journals

International Journal of Engineering Education – The current issue (vol. 20, no. 4) includes a special issue on manufacturing engineering education, edited by Paul Shiue and Thomas Kurfess. Ten theme papers cover areas such as multimedia-based  and computer-based learning in manufacturing engineering, work-based learning, and machine tool simulation. The issue also contains eight papers on diverse topics. (See  

IEEE Transactions on Education – The August 2004 issue contains 17 papers on internet course delivery, remote control labs, mechatronics experiments, mobile robotics, and power engineering. (See

Journal of STEM Education – This journal has moved to electronic access through its website: The current issue contains six articles on software, multidisciplinary student teams, complex spatial thinking, and problem based learning.


7 – Meetings

ASEE/Tsinghua University colloquium – The third ASEE International Colloquium on Engineering Education was held at Tsinghua University in Beijing from September 6th to 10th. Keynote speakers were Wu Qidi , China ’s Vice Minister of Education, Jack Wilson, President of the University of Massachusetts System , and John Brighton, Assistant Director for Engineering of the US National Science Foundation. Qidi noted that engineering is the engine for economic development, and pointed out that China produces more engineers than any other country (3.7 million engineering students currently in the pipeline). Wilson described several major issues for engineering education, including globalism, nano-info-bio-cogno-enviro growing fields, women and minorities, liberal arts/humanities, entrepreneurship, interactive learning, and continuing education via online learning. Brighton noted that traditional engineering disciplines are giving way to cross-cutting areas, that career paths for engineers are shifting from domestic to global,  that engineering education must change more rapidly in order to adequately prepare graduates for the dramatic developments in engineering practice, and that engineers of the future need to address the grand challenges of society. The colloquium was structured around three themes: continuing education and its delivery, engineering education reform, and international recognition of qualifications. A summary of the content of these three tracks is being prepared for ASEE Prism. (See 

Frontiers in Education Conference – The annual FIE conference, co-sponsored by ASEE and IEEE, will be held in Savannah , Georgia , from October 20th to 23rd. Focus will be on expanding educational opportunities through partnerships and distance learning. (See



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