Asee peer logo

Transforming Engineering Education Is Possible! A Descriptive Case Study of Reimagining Engineering Education and Delivering a Wake Forest Engineering Student Experience Promoting Inclusion, Agency, Holistic Learning, and Success

Download Paper |

Conference

2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)

Location

Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Technical Session: Transforming Engineering Education Is Possible! A Descriptive Case Study of Reimagining Engineering Education and Delivering a Wake Forest Engineering Student Experience Promoting Inclusion, Agency, Holistic Learning, and Success

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

Page Count

52

DOI

10.18260/1-2--45490

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/45490

Download Count

52

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Olga Pierrakos Wake Forest University

visit author page

Dr. Olga Pierrakos is the Founding Professor of Wake Forest Engineering and served as the Founding Chair from 2017-2022. She is an engineering education researcher as well as biomedical and mechanical engineer. She is a founder of two brand new engineering programs - the first at James Madison University - and considers herself an academic entrepreneur. Prior to joining Wake Forest University, she served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education. She holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, a MS in Engineering Mechanics, and a BS in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Virginia Tech. Faith and family are her cornerstones.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

The inaugural cohort of engineering students arrived at Wake Forest University (WFU) in August 2017, just six weeks after the founding chair and faculty arrived on site. No website, no vision, no curriculum, no equipment, no operating budget existed when the founding team arrived. A newly renovated building, what was an old tobacco warehouse, was the new home for WFU Engineering. A liberal arts research university, WFU has a strong academic reputation and students are expected to explore the academic landscape before declaring a major in the sophomore year (spring semester typically). According to admissions, the number of students that were expected to enroll in the first engineering class (fall 2017) was about 20 (15% of whom would be women). On the first day of class, Intro to Engineering Thinking and Practice, 55 students had enrolled (more than double of what was expected). Within three years, Wake Forest Engineering had nearly 200 students, of whom 40% were women and 25% were students that brought racial and ethnic diversity. There were 43 inaugural WFU Engineering graduates in May 2021 and the new department was already that 4th largest and the most diverse among the 30 departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. This paper will share the story, from the perspective of the founding chair, of building Wake Forest Engineering and the strategies that led to (a) an inclusive and diverse student and faculty body, (b) a flexible and innovative curriculum, (c) pedagogies that empowered students, (d) partnerships that enabled transformation, (e) a vision to redefine the culture of engineering education and the department. The strategies used reflected tradition and innovation, evidence-based and exploration, agility and compliance, student-centeredness and external perspectives. In midst of start-up mode and the Covid pandemic, the grueling work of accreditation was also high stakes. WFU Engineering is now ABET accredited and has achieved unprecedented outcomes. The successes and challenges are presented in this paper. Transformative change is possible in engineering education and in engineering departments. Intentionality and evidence-based strategies are a must.

Pierrakos, O. (2024, February), Transforming Engineering Education Is Possible! A Descriptive Case Study of Reimagining Engineering Education and Delivering a Wake Forest Engineering Student Experience Promoting Inclusion, Agency, Holistic Learning, and Success Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45490

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2024 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015