The NSF Engineering (ENG) Directorate is launching a multi-year initiative, the Professional Formation of Engineers, to create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st Century. Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE) refers to the formal and informal processes and value systems by which people become engineers. It also includes the ethical responsibility of practicing engineers to sustain and grow the profession. The engineering profession must be responsive to national priorities, grand challenges, and dynamic workforce needs; it must be equally open and accessible to all.
In FY 2015 the PFE initiative in ENG is launching a pilot program aligned with the IUSE framework: Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (herein referred to as RED), in partnership with the Directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR). This funding opportunity enables engineering departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome long-standing issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering students prepared to solve 21st century challenges. Computer science departments, whether administratively located in or outside an engineering program, are included in RED, as they share the same challenges as traditional engineering departments. (Note: “Engineering departments” in this solicitation will refer to engineering and computer science departments.)
Even as demographic and regional socio-economic factors affect departments in unique ways, there are certain tenets of sustainable change that are common across institutions. For instance, the development and engagement of the entire faculty within a department are paramount to the process, and they must be incentivized. Departmental cultural barriers to inclusion of students and faculty from different backgrounds must be identified and addressed. Finally, coherent technical and professional threads must be developed and woven across the four years, especially (1) in the core technical courses of the middle two years, (2) in internship opportunities in the private and public sectors, and (3) in research opportunities with faculty. These and other threads aim to ensure that students develop deep knowledge in their discipline more effectively and meaningfully, while at the same time, aim to build their capacities for 21st Century and “T-shaped” professional skills, including design, leadership, communication, understanding historical and contemporary social contexts, lifelong learning, creativity, entrepreneurship, and teamwork. It is hoped that, over time, the awardees of this program will create knowledge concerning sustainable change in engineering and computer science education that can be scaled and adopted nationally across a wide variety of academic institutions.
Note: Because it addresses undergraduate engineering education, the Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) funding opportunity is offered in alignment with the NSF-wide undergraduate STEM education initiative, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE). More information about IUSE can be found in the Introduction of this solicitation.
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