Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi School Announces a New Division of Engineering Education

September 18, 2007 —

Dean Yannis Yortsos
Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has announced the establishment of a new Division of Engineering Education to focus on undergraduate and Master’s level engineering education that would be a “crucible for new and innovative ideas.”

“Voices from prominent engineering and scientific bodies, including the National Academies, have urged renewed attention on the importance of engineering and its paramount role in incubating innovation and economic growth,” Yortsos said in a memorandum announcing the new division. “They have also challenged the academic establishment to respond to the new global reality, by promoting and implementing new curricula and educational practices to form a new engineer.”

In his August welcome address to new freshmen, Yortsos described the new brand of engineer as one who:

o Combines analytical and mathematical skills with creativity and synthesis – a balanced blend of left- and right-brain skills;
o Is capable of solving complex technical problems for the benefit of society;
o Can innovate and understands how to transfer new technology to the marketplace;
o Leads, across disciplines and across the globe, and who understands the human element, human history and human culture.

“The quality of Viterbi students choosing to study engineering has been rising dramatically,” said Yortsos. “Since 2000, the average SAT scores (Math and Critical Reading/Verbal) of entering freshman has risen 76 points and in the process Viterbi has also helped raise the university average.”

He said it was important to challenge, retain and prepare these talented students for a highly competitive global marketplace that places a premium on rapidly extracting an economic advantage from technological innovations.

The nature of students the Viterbi School’s master’s degree programs has also been changing. Most master’s students are seeking a professional degree, often in new technological areas that didn’t exist when they were undergraduates or in programs that stretch into disciplines such as business.

“When I was in graduate school, the overwhelming majority of engineering master’s degrees went to those who were on their way to a Ph.D.  I was one of them,” said Yortsos. “That’s no longer true.”

Yortsos said the new division would focus on undergraduate curriculum reform, on the master’s curriculum and its relation to professional development, and on assessing the effectiveness of curricular offerings.

Yortsos said the new division would be staffed through joint appointments of current Viterbi School faculty “who care deeply about engineering education” and “who will objectively study, review, propose and help departments implement school-wide initiatives to enhance engineering education.” He added that he expected faculty in the new division would respond to the call for proposals on engineering education issues by national agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

The dean turned to Cauligi “Raghu” Raghavendra, senior associate dean for strategic initiatives, to initiate and lead the new division until a permanent director is named sometime in the next year.

“Future engineers will face different challenges and will be working in a global setting,” said Raghavendra. “It is important for students to learn the skills needed to be successful leaders in this rapidly changing global economy and working environment. The Division of Engineering Education will address many issues to prepare our students for these 21st century challenges.”

-- Bob Calverley