Inside Engineering

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Shaping Tomorrow’s Engineers with an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Mar 11, 2024

The Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) recently held its annual conference from February 8th to 10th, 2024, in the vibrant city of Austin, Texas. The event brought together esteemed faculty and staff from more than 60 engineering colleges and universities across the United States. In a testament to the generous support from KEEN, it is worth highlighting that all 11 attendees from New York Institute of Technology were funded to participate in the conference. A strong presence by the New York Tech faculty and staff demonstrated the university’s commitment to student success focused initiatives supported by KEEN.  This demonstrates KEEN's dedication to investing in the professional development of educators and their commitment to advancing the field of engineering education.

KEEN, known for its commitment to fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering students, provided a platform for academic leaders to explore innovative teaching methodologies and shape the future of engineering education. The conference focused on several key themes, including integrating entrepreneurship into curriculums, enhancing student engagement, and preparing graduates for successful careers in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Babak D. Beheshti Ph.D., Dean of New York Tech’s College of Engineering and Computing Sciences (CoECS), expressed his enthusiasm for the conference, stating:

"The conference was an inspiration, I was immersed in a community genuinely committed to innovative methods of educating the next generation of engineers."

He noted that the conference’s plenary sessions, as well as many workshops, covered the latest proven techniques for engaging students in Entrepreneurial Minded Learning (EML). The conference was also well attended by deans and academic leaders, allowing separate and productive working sessions for them to plan policies to promote EML in their institutions.

One of the highlights of was a workshop discussing the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into engineering curricula. Participants explored strategies to captivate students with modern developments in AI, emphasizing the importance of incorporating AI technologies into coursework rather than prohibiting them, and promoting collaboration between students and AI systems.

Jane Polizzi, Assistant Dean of Administration & Operations at CoECS, highlighted the impact of implementing the entrepreneurial mindset in college curriculums, stating:

"Attending this conference and learning about the entrepreneurial mindset creates student engagement, character development, and benefits faculty in their lesson planning." 

She mentioned that the conference also underscored the significance of the "3Cs" - Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value - as essential components of the entrepreneurial mindset. Attendees delved into how these principles can empower students to embark on meaningful projects and careers in engineering.

The conference offered a diverse array of learning opportunities tailored to suit the preferences and needs of attendees. Department lunch & learns provided a relaxed setting for networking and knowledge-sharing among peers, fostering collaboration and camaraderie within the engineering community. Xun Yu, Ph.D., Chair of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Management, and Construction Engineering department, highlighted the significance of this collaborative experience, asserting, “With over 500 attendees from 60 partner universities, it served as an exceptional platform for collaboration and exchange of ideas."

The exchange of ideas is something KEEN is known for. The website Engineering Unleashed, owned by KEEN, is a community space where educators share their experiences implementing the entrepreneurial mindset, with in-person and virtual meetups. Members contribute valuable resources such as classroom activities and complete courses for the benefit of the wider engineering education community.

Cecilia Dong, Ph.D., a faculty member in Electrical & Computer Engineering, echoed similar sentiments and praised the KEEN community for its welcoming and inspiring environment, stating:

"It’s exciting to interact with like-minded colleagues who are willing to share their best practices in engineering education and make a difference in students’ lives."

Furthermore, the conference underscored the importance of continuous professional development for faculty members. Highlighting this, it was emphasized that "Great faculty development paths inspire great careers." Attendees were encouraged to leverage the diverse learning opportunities provided by Engineering Unleashed, enabling them to enhance their abilities, increase effectiveness, and amplify their impact in the field of engineering education. This comprehensive approach ensured that attendees could engage with the content in a manner that maximized their learning outcomes and professional growth. Reflecting on the conference, Prof. George Salayka Jr., from the Computer Science department, emphasized the value of the event in enhancing teaching effectiveness and invigorating educators to implement impactful tools in their classes.

The KEEN National Conference served as a catalyst for collaboration, innovation, and professional development, offering attendees a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, best practices, and experiences in engineering education. As the engineering landscape continues to evolve, conferences like KEEN play a crucial role in shaping the future of engineering education and empowering students to thrive in an ever-changing world.


This article was contributed by Paula Juric Kreuz, professional development specialist in the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences.