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WKU one of 14 schools selected for national innovation and entrepreneurship program

Will be used for undergraduate engineering education

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2015) — Western Kentucky University was selected among 14 higher education institutions in the U.S. by the NSF-funded National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) to join the Pathways to Innovation Program.

wkuPathways to Innovation is designed to help institutions fully incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into undergraduate engineering education. The program is run by Epicenter, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and the VentureWell.

“WKU has great resources for entrepreneurs: the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Gordon Ford College of Business, the Kentucky Innovation Center and all its related programs at the Center for Research and Development, and the Engineering-Manufacturing-Commercialization Center in Ogden College of Science and Engineering,” said Julie Ellis, one of WKU’s Pathways Program leaders. “This project will bring all those resources into the experience of WKU engineering students in new ways. Our goal is to make entrepreneurial experiences as much a part of WKU Engineering as project experiences are now.”

Ongoing innovation is required to maintain America’s global competitiveness and address pressing problems. Engineering is the foundation of much of that innovation. Faculty and administrators participating in Epicenter’s Pathways Program are taking on this challenge and leading their universities into a new era of engineering education that prepares students to tackle big problems and thrive in this ever-changing economy.

“Today, engineering and computer science students are expected to enter industry with technical knowledge as well as a diverse set of mindsets, skillsets and attitudes that help them innovate, collaborate and create value,” said Tom Byers, director and co-principal investigator of Epicenter and professor at Stanford. “As educators, we need to better prepare this generation of students for the workforce, position them for success in their careers, and give them more opportunities to bring their innovative ideas to life.”

Participating schools assemble a team of faculty and academic leaders to assess their institution’s current offerings, design a unique strategy for change, and lead their peers in a transformation process to broaden and strengthen their campus-based innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Program teams receive access to models for integrating entrepreneurship into engineering curriculum, custom online resources, networking opportunities, guidance from a community of engineering and entrepreneurship faculty, and membership in a national network of schools with similar goals.

The teams in the new cohort join a community of 36 institutional teams that are currently participating in the program. The projects include innovation certificates and majors, maker and flexible learning spaces, first-year and capstone courses, faculty fellows programs, and innovation centers. Additionally, several cross-institutional collaborations have resulted from the first group of schools.

Leaders from each Pathways team met for the first time at Stanford University from Nov. 19-20. A second meeting in January 2016 will bring together an entire team of faculty and administrators from each school to analyze the needs and opportunities at their schools and develop plans for transforming the undergraduate engineering experience.

Other schools selected for the program are:

  • Binghamton University – SUNY
  • California State University, Northridge
  • The City College of New York – CUNY
  • Florida A&M University / Florida State University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Louisiana Tech University
  • Portland State University
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • South Dakota State University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of South Florida
  • Western Carolina University
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