Letter from the Dean

Fall 2011

Dear Whiting School Community,

Every year, I am invigorated by the energy, dedication, and creativity of our engineering undergraduates here on the Homewood campus.

Right now, we have students working on projects that include designing innovative medical devices for use in developing countries, building new yeast genomes that have the potential to boost bread’s nutritional value, and planning the construction of a daycare center in Ecuador. All of these projects are fabulous, and all reflect the values of a Johns Hopkins education.

But as the Whiting School leadership team charts its course in a new five-year strategic plan, we have the perfect opportunity to take a step back and determine how these values will be better expressed in the future. How do we educate our undergraduates to meet the challenges of an even more complex world? What will define a Hopkins undergraduate engineering education in the years to come?

Historically, we have done an excellent job of combining a deep technical education with rich offerings in the humanities and social sciences. Our undergraduates work on important research in our laboratories and are mentored by world-renowned faculty. And we support extracurricular initiatives that draw upon students’ engineering skills and expand their world views and experiences.

While these experiences are valuable, I have to wonder if it is time to reconsider the skills our students need for success in the years ahead. We need to graduate students who can think creatively, holistically, imaginatively—even artistically—if they are to solve a whole new set of complex societal and global problems.

The challenges of the 21st century require expertise and collaboration from across a wide span of disciplines. How do we secure the world’s natural resources while balancing the needs of 7 billion people? How do we harness advances of modern medicine to improve the health of people from countries as diverse as Ethiopia and the United States? How do we utilize more effectively the terabytes of raw data generated by supercomputers?

Our Vice Dean of Education Edward R. Scheinerman is working with faculty to determine what it will take to prepare our students to tackle these challenges. And at a recent daylong retreat, our senior leaders and faculty spent hours discussing this topic.

As valued members of our community, your insights are invaluable. Send your ideas or suggestions to [[email protected]]. Together we can find that balance between technical expertise and creative problem solving that will be critical to educating the next generation of innovators.

Best wishes,

Nicholas P. Jones
Benjamin T. Rome Dean, Whiting School of Engineering