Love it! At NC State, creating multidisciplinary programs/certificates combining e’ship with other key functional areas from around the University has been quite easy and successful at the Graduate level. At the UG level, territorial politics reign and so we work behind the scenes to build collaborative arrangements between programs in order to combine b-school students with design, engineering, textiles, etc. It’s quite difficult, however, to do these things without institutional support. There is room for hope though in that the combination of budget challenges with the emergence of functional models like the one you highlight here suggests that these types of multi-disciplinary programs can emerge even at the large Research 1 Universities.
I seems like the biggest challenge might be to get the first set of employers to understand what the degree means in terms of practical application. I can easily see a narrow minded employer simply not understanding how a broad base of knowledge is useful when they are currently focused on finding “an engineer” instead of a multidisciplinary workhorse.
Or is part of the idea that from the real world projects, students also graduate with a healthy resume and recommendations?
It is great to see a University adjusting to give students a broader base coming out of school. One thing I wonder about is… I know that in startups generalists rule the roost, but is the same true in large companies? I have little experience outside of the startup world, but anecdotally deeply specialized domain experts still are in demand in very large companies.
Drawing a horizontal chart to replace one of vertical silos helps visualize a new system, but raises some big red flags that need further explanation. How will students in the new horizontally integrated curricula find the time, assuming the time required to master a discipline is justification for the current silo approach in education?
To what extent do new goals for imparting integrated proficiency sacrifice focused expertise?
Steve – a great post and the main proposal is music to my ears. However, I have a concern (raised by one of the others above). The “area” of a student’s learning at university is presumably fairly fixed (ie they have 4 years and only a certain number of hours of learning available). Changing the shape of that learning from “tall and narrow” to “something and wide” suggests that the something is “shorter than previously”.
So what I’m getting at is that the depth of learning is going to be reduced. This shorter / fatter shape of learning will be appropriate for some but not all.
I come from the UK and one of the issues we face is that previous governments have promoted “breadth” at the expense of “depth” of learning in our schools. The result is that we have children who think they know something about almost everything but don’t actually know much in any depth!
I hate to break the news, but Industrial Technology and Technology Management Programs have filled the gap between engineering and business for the last 30 years. At the University level, these programs produce technically competent managerial professionals that support the economy as managers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and educators. Why haven’t you heard about these programs?–because engineering and business programs have been actively trying to kill them since their inception. The only reason they still exist is because companies love to hire these graduates. For a list of the programs, go to the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering website. (www.atmae.org).
I would have agreed with this post if I had read it three or four years ago; however, I am currently in my last year of a mechatronic systems engineering (blended mechanical, electronic and control) undergraduate program, and can say with confidence that the type of thinking this post promotes is laudable in the long term, but severely hurts the student in the short term.
I am uncertain as to the impact on students at such a prestigious university as Berkeley or Stanford, but coming from one of the more respected schools in Canada, students with ‘broad-based’ degrees have a hard time finding internships and entry level jobs for which the employers prefer to hire specialized new graduates. My fellow students and I have come to understand that our skill-set is only well suited to small businesses that require entry-level people to perform a variety of tasks which require wide-ranging understanding and knowledge; medium and large businesses seem to prefer hiring people to perform specialized tasks, then promoting them to make decisions for which they are ill-qualified. Businesses will deny that this last point is true, (and have routinely done so to myself and the faculty of my university), but if you closely examine their hiring procedures, you will see that they are geared to encourage this type of decision making.
I teach at the HS level and would like to offer an Entrepreneurship class, what do you think all students should know and be able to do as it relates to this subject? Activities etc This seems to be a hot topic and I would like to make this work.
I like the critique of academic silos and the argument that becoming versatile used to be a mid or late career thing but is now required in early career. the kinds of principles discussed in the blog can be applied to many fields, not just design and engineering. Letting some students design or engineer their own major has proven to work at some major universities including NYU, UC Berkeley, and UMass Amherst (from where I speak).
Hate it – as a graduating college senior I think the problem is too much integration. I’ve spent so much time in college on integrated studies and liberal education. When my parents went to college they graduated ready to become an accountant and a nurse. Now we graduate as jacks of all trades and masters of none. Steve Blank – I’m sorry to say I quite disagree.
Unfortunately 1 swallow does not a summer make… 1 in over 4000 institutions won’t change things overnight…
This is a great idea, but in today’s jobs market when there are 1000 applicants for every position, recruiters and HR departments are building automated systems to sort candidates based upon very deep and specific technical criteria.
As a ‘T’ shaped reason I’m finding it so difficult to find employers who think this is a good way…. I hope these students do better :)