Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gordon Program extends leadership training to MIT undergrads - SDM Pulse, Fall 2008

By Kathryn O’Neill, managing editor, SDM Pulse

With the launch of the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program this fall, MIT has expanded its commitment to the same kind of engineering leadership training that is the hallmark of the System Design and Management Program.

Founded with a $20 million gift from the Gordon Foundation, the new program is designed to ensure that undergraduates in the School of Engineering are prepared to become engineering leaders. Professor Edward F. Crawley of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, a founding codirector of SDM, is the program’s director.

“It’s not that there is a lack of opportunities for leadership at MIT,” said Joel Schindall, interim industry codirector of the Gordon Program. “It’s that there’s no roadmap and no integrated approach.”

MIT alumnus Bernard M. Gordon, SB ’48, SM ’49, has a vision to change that. The holder of more than 200 patents and the founder of Analogic Corporation and NeuroLogica Corporation, Gordon has been instrumental in seeding a number of engineering leadership programs around the country through the Gordon Foundation. MIT’s is the first to target undergraduates.

“In view of increasing global competition, we need to reinforce product engineering education—the education of those who innovate and put products into production—for which the United States has a great demand,” Gordon said in announcing his gift to MIT last July. “MIT and its students, as potential leaders, have an obligation to the nation to do this.”

The Gordon Program will provide structured leadership training in conjunction with hands-on project work—an effort to return a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done mentality to engineering education, which has become more theoretical and research-oriented over the last several decades, according to Schindall, who is also the Bernard M. Gordon professor of the practice of product engineering.

The program has four main components, the first of which is to enhance the curriculum of every engineering student with hands-on leadership training and practice. The second is to provide additional knowledge and experience for students with an interest in engineering leadership. In addition to advanced courses, the program will provide resources and mentoring to students who pursue extracurricular leadership opportunities at MIT—from design competitions to the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program to entrepreneurship. “One of the exciting things about the Gordon Program is that we don’t have to invent new activities. We’re going to use what’s already here,” Schindall said.

A third component of the program provides for about 30 students each year to become Gordon Engineering Leaders, a special track that requires a two-year commitment (similar to the commitment required for a minor) plus ongoing involvement as alumni. Fifteen students were admitted into this year’s pilot class of Leaders. As the program gains ground, deliberate efforts will be made to disseminate best practices. This fourth component is particularly important to Gordon, because MIT is a role model for engineering education.

Schindall stressed that “There are some great synergies between the Gordon Program and the work that MIT’s Engineering Systems Division is already doing through SDM and other programs. We have already discussed some exciting opportunities for collaboration, and we are looking forward to working together.”

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