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Present-day higher education institutions offering undergraduate engineering programs need to prepare their students for a world filled with complex global challenges. Such preparation requires the acquisition of multidisciplinary knowledge and the application of multidisciplinary methodologies. A pilot initiative was launched in Fall 2017 for an elective three-year (sophomore to senior year) cross-departmental multi-disciplinary undergraduate engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) named New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET). The program has three cross-departmental pathways across STEM disciplines and technical domains. The program has completed its fourth year of operation and has grown to become the fourth-largest undergraduate academic cohort at MIT. This paper is divided into two parts: the first part describes the revision of program requirements and their implementation during Fall 2019–Fall 2020. The second part describes the launching of a new single-themed program titled Climate & Sustainability Systems, which took place and was implemented during Summer–Fall 2021. Both initiatives responded to issues and changing circumstances raised by students, faculty, and instructional staff, with the aim of affording students more flexibility, reducing the additional workload beyond their chosen majors, enhancing their educational experience, and increasing their engagement with the program-wide community. In January 2020, following feedback collected from MIT students, faculty, instructional staff, and senior administration, we began a systematic process of reviewing the program’s academic requirements. Data collected includes student questionnaires and specifications of program requirements throughout the study period. The revised requirements were published toward the end of the Spring 2020 semester, serendipitously around the same time as the COVID-19 mandated university-wide pivot from in-person on-campus teaching to emergency remote teaching and were implemented in Fall 2020. Since the publication of these new requirements, enrollment in the program has increased substantially year-on-year across all program threads. Subsequent data collection during Spring 2020 and Spring 2021 showed that word-of-mouth about the program has grown stronger, with ‘current students’ and ‘other first-years’ being two of the most-cited sources as to how first-years get to know about NEET. This paper explains the impetus for changing the program requirements, describes how the new requirements were formulated and implemented, and outlines what we have learned from implementing the revised requirements. We also describe how we collaborated with various stakeholders in the planning, design, and implementation of the revised requirements. For the second part of the paper, we describe how we launched a new climate and sustainability pathway based on our three-year experience of introducing pathways connected to energy, manufacturing ands materials, and sustainable development of cities, and on the growing interest amongst students in combating climate change in a sustainable manner. We describe how the process of consolidation was planned out and designed, how we collaborated with various stakeholders and how initial implementation has undergone. It should be emphasized that the approach we have taken here is largely qualitative and based primarily on how students and other key stakeholders responded to, engaged with the NEET program, and helped to evolve it. NEET leadership commissioned a systematic programmatic evaluation starting from Spring 2021, and we will be guided by their assessment of the changes as we look to the future. This paper is intended for institutional leadership, departmental leadership, faculty, and academic staff seized by the need to create and implement relevant and engaging cross-departmental multi-disciplinary undergraduate engineering programs.
Lavi, R., & Salek, M. M., & Mitra, A., & Shepardson, R., & Lavallee, J., & Long, G., & Melenbrink, N. (2022, August), Revising the Requirements of a Cross-Departmental Project-Centric Undergraduate Engineering Program and Launching a new Sustainability and Climate-themed Track Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41549
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