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Do Elite Colleges Pay-Off?

Researchers recently published an article in the WSJ about whether prestegious colleges are woth the price. Does the high price of an elite college result is higher carreer incomes?

Not surprisingly, the answer is . . . it depends. It depends on the student’s major field of study according to the research. Generally, for students studying the liberal arts or business, prestige of the institution matters. The more elite schools produced higher future incomes in these disciplines. But in STEM fields, the institution had little, if any, impact on mid career incomes.

One of the benefits of elite institutions is the alumni network they provide. Those networks can be helpful in early career job searches and job placement. A graduate of a liberal arts program may have to rely upon such a network more than a STEM graduate for reasons of simple supply and demand. Connections matter. In STEM fields, perhaps skills trump prestige, but in liberal arts and business the choice of school may be important for future income.

So, the question still remains - is the cost of the college related to the educational outcomes and future earnings potential of graduates?

It depends.

What Are Project Management Skills?

I teach project management in a Master’s program in management. For students who have not been exposed to project management as a discipline, many hope to learn a multi-step process that will result in project success.

For students with experience, they know this is nonsense.

Both traditional and agile project management methodologies demand advanced people skills. Pure technical skills are not enough. As we watch more organizations embrace agile more broadly (except you civil engineers), creativity, risk tolerance, and adaptability become more valuable.

Are we teaching engineering students enough of the people and communications skills to succeed in these agile environments? This is an important question. As engineering education changes to incorporate more of the social skills needed to succeed in a multicultural, hyper-competitive business environment, perhaps we will see the re-convergence of the liberal arts and the sciences.


Getting Creative in Arizona

I recently returned from another Pathways meeting, this time in Arizona. Each 2015 pathways institution had several team members attend to kick-off planning for the Pathways effort. We had three of us attend.

Part of the visit was a visit to ASU, and I am impressed! ASU has managed to blend entrepreneurship into every academic program offered by the university. Out visit to Skysong in Scottsdale made a big impact on me. Skysong is a small collection of buildings that are designed to connect research, startups, education and entrepreneurship. There is commercial space of young technology companies, a hacker space/maker space, and a well-designed student startup incubator space. Wonderful!

I love to study physical spaces – I have experienced how impactful the physical space can be on innovation and entrepreneurship. I one of my previous roles while at Guidant (a $5bil medical device company), I was responsible for a team of architects, designers, and engineers tasked to re-design various facilities to accommodate significant growth of the business while infusing a new culture of innovation. The team succeeded – the difference between the space before and after the effort had a tremendous impact on the organization. In all, almost 1 million sq.ft. of space across three corporate campuses was impacted during our team’s effort. The right space can energize people and (I believe) make them more creative. I learned a great deal from that experience.

ASU must have learned the same things. Skysong has some great, creative, spaces.

The d.school at Stanford

All the 2015 Pathways to Innovation team leaders met at Stanford University on January 14-16, 2015 for training and a kick-off meeting. This is going to be a wild ride!

This is an amazing group – all faculty, including some Deans, from engineering programs within the cohort of institutions. Everyone seems to be enthusiastic about the possibilities in bringing engineering education into the future. Many shared some of the challenges they faced in doing so, which was very interesting. Higher education just has a much slower clock speed than the real world – everyone seems to agree on what is important for the knowledge sets, creativity, and crucial thinking skills needed in successful engineering graduates but most institutions fall short in delivering the robust programs and ecosystems needed to provide a rich learning environment of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The highlight for me was the time we spent at the Stanford d.school. I have been introduced to design thinking many times previously – when I was part of a startup, we hired IDEO (part of the foundation for what became the d.school) to help us in the development of a medical device and design thinking was the human centered approach used. But, the energy at the d.school is wonderful. We all experienced some of the exercises they use, most likely purposed as a kind of bonding experience for all the new team leaders. Well, it worked.

It was also nice to get back to Stanford – I once lived only a few blocks away in downtown Palo Alto. Good food, beautiful campus, great people. The Caltrain ride back to the SFO airport brought back many commuter memories!

A New Journey Begins

Hey! My proposal I submitted to the Epicenter 2015 Pathways to Innovation program has been selected/accepted! We’re in!

Mines will be part of the selected 2015 cohort of institutions, which includes:

Case Western Reserve University
Clemson University
Colorado School of Mines
Florida Institute of Technology
Hampton University
Illinois Institute of Technology
James Madison University
Loyola University Maryland
Missouri University of Science & Technology
New York Institute of Technology
North Carolina A&T
Oregon State University
Southern Methodist University
Temple University
Universidad del Turabo
University of Alabama - Birmingham
University of Delaware
University of Hawaii at Monoa
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
University of North Dakota
University of Puerto Rico - Myaguez
University of Texas - Arlington
University of Texas - El Paso
Washington State University
Wichita State University

Things are about to get even busier! Look out 2015!