RIT joins KEEN network of universities leading advances in undergraduate engineering education

‘Entrepreneurial minded learning’ concepts to be integrated into coursework

Rochester Institute of Technology is now a part of KEEN: Engineering Unleashed, a national partnership of approximately 50 universities that come together to advance engineering education. The group focuses on developing graduates who are technically prepared, understand societal changes and strategically seek opportunities to improve upon these changes.

Engineers are being asked to solve global problems that are happening faster than ever—from integrating smart technologies in transportation to salvaging a challenged environment.

RIT will be preparing its engineering graduates to make an impact in these and other areas by combining engineering skills with the mindset of entrepreneurs.

Engineering education is transitioning across the country toward designing products and services that better serve society overall. One trend gathering traction is the integration of “entrepreneurial-minded learning” into coursework to improve learning outcomes. 

The Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network—KEEN—and its entrepreneurial mindset is not contrary to how engineering concepts have been taught at universities, but is a progressive way of preparing the next generation of engineers, like those graduating from universities such as RIT, who will be expected to anticipate, and act on, societal changes.

Engineers equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset go beyond simply solving complex, technical problems. The also recognize the many opportunities engineers have to create value, said Matthew Marshall, associate dean in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

“The KEEN network is comprised of engineering faculty who have developed highly innovative approaches to integrating entrepreneurial-minded learning into their courses,” said Marshall.  “Many RIT faculty are interested and motivated to leverage the resources that the network provides to transform engineering and engineering technology courses at RIT using entrepreneurial-minded learning, and to build on our strong tradition of excellence in undergraduate education.”

Marshall is part of a core group from RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the College of Engineering Technology, coordinating the university’s KEEN Network participation toward that type of transformative learning. Since the summer, more than 50 faculty have participated in KEEN workshops to learn more about KEEN’s Framework—a structured guide for mastering engineering skills supplemented with a variety of mindset—or approaches—to problem-solving. Several faculty will be incorporating different approaches during the fall semester across RIT’s engineering and engineering technology degree programs.

Partners in the network have access to instructional resources such the framework and experienced faculty-researchers as mentors. Participants in the network are also expected to reciprocate with peer universities in providing information about best practices and curricula development related to the introduction of entrepreneurial mindset learning in coursework.

“The focus of KEEN is creating engineers who combine technical mastery with an understanding of how to create value for society and their companies. This aligns extremely well with RIT educational goals, which reach beyond career focused education,” said Michael Eastman, associate dean of RIT’s College of Engineering Technology (CET). Eastman and Marshall are joined on RIT’s KEEN core group by Jennifer O’Neil, assistant professor in the CET’s mechanical engineering technology department, and Beth DeBartolo, associate professor and director of the multidisciplinary design program in the Kate Gleason College.

“RIT is delighted to join the KEEN network of institutions as a partner. With strength in numbers, we will be able to serve as an excellent test bed for new pedagogical approaches and can generate meaningful data to support the efficacy of these approaches. Our faculty are looking forward to integrating entrepreneurial-minded learning across multiple years of the curriculum. This partnership will enable us to provide unique, state-of-the-art curricular experiences, to recruit, engage, retain and graduate students. The enhanced reputation because of this partnership will be invaluable to RIT,” said S. Manian Ramkumar, dean of the College of Engineering Technology, and Doreen Edwards, dean of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, in a joint statement.

RIT will host Douglas Melton, program director of the Kern Family Foundation, sponsors of the KEEN Network, at the 2019 Eugene H. Fram Applied Critical Thinking Signature Lecture 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. Sept. 17 in Ingle Auditorium, located in RIT’s Student Alumni Union. The event title: POWERFUL STUFF: An Entrepreneurial Mindset Built on Critical Thinking.

A video of the KEEN Framework in practice is available: Jennifer O’Neill ’08 (mechanical engineering), assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology in RIT’s College of Engineering Technology, gave a TED-style talk at the 2019 KEEN National Conference about different approaches she took to engage students in her courses by providing different real-world examples of theory and applications.

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