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Engineering 'manpower' Shortages, Regional Economic Development, And The 1960 California Master Plan For Higher Education: Historical Lessons On Engineering Workforce Development

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Historical Perspectives for Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.474.1 - 15.474.26



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Paper Authors


Atsushi Akera Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Director, First Year Studies & Associate Professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

endorsed by the new Dean of the Graduate Division. Chafing at what Tribus regarded to be a direct violation of academic freedom, he

a very unsatisfactory situation when a Professor of Engineering must explain to a Professor of Letters and Science that it is a legitimate form of engineering research to develop the abstract principles which underlie all of engineering design. Yet this is what the Dean and I are being 71

onciliatory approach to Tribus, and allowed the Ford Foundation grant to move forward. But he did not ease up on the pressure placed on Boelter. Working through the framework of the campus Academic Plan, which Kerr remade into an instrument for the implementation of the Master Plan, Boelter and his faculty were forced to articulate how they could contribute to the research based system of higher education specified for the University of California campuses. faculty defended the notion of a unified Both they, along with Boelter, also pursued other strategies for preserving their legacy.72 Nevertheless, what followed was a soul-searching exercise in departmental reorganization, during which the College, while retaining a single Department of Engineering, created subject- d within it that helped to solidify faculty interests and enabled them to pursue research contracts and develop stronger PhD programs within these specified areas. (They insisted, on the other hand, in creating non-traditional engineering divisions based on a commitment to interdisciplinarity, and they retained the option, at least in principle, of the fluid movement of faculty across divisions.) By the time Boelter approached his retirement in 1965, Murphy could claim that, with a small exception having to do with the engineering course catalog, Indeed, this was to say that the department had been remade in the image of the California Master Plan.73

Historical Lessons

that can be gleaned from this episode. At the broadest level, this story is about opportunism and institution building in a political context, where existing political and educational institutions, along with postwar economic and demographic trends provided an effective environment for restructuring not only engineering 74 The audience of this paper will no doubt be delighted to know that engineering educators played an important part in transforming one of the most important systems of higher education in the United States, if not higher education in the U.S. as a whole.75

Our present circumstances are clearly quite different from those of the early Cold War era. The the current situation with respect to our scientific and engineering workforce, stands in stark contrast to the boom and bust cycles of the Cold War era, when radical expansion in federal procurements and research expenditures fueled a national panic about the technical workforce. Even in leaving the present situation in California aside

acknowledged that the strategies of entrepreneurialism and institution building described in this paper are unlikely to succeed in the present context, unaltered.76

Akera, A. (2010, June), Engineering 'manpower' Shortages, Regional Economic Development, And The 1960 California Master Plan For Higher Education: Historical Lessons On Engineering Workforce Development Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16084

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