Writer: Emilee Cantrell
New Mexico State University is one of 12 universities from across the country selected to take part in the National Science Foundation’s first cohort of the Pathways to Innovation program.
Led by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), the Pathways to Innovation program was created to help universities incorporate entrepreneurship and innovation into undergraduate engineering education. The program will equip NMSU in their role to strengthen regional and global competitiveness.
A recent report published by the U.S. Department of Commerce states that the majority of job creation in our country during the last two decades has occurred in young, startup companies. “While the United States remains the global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, there is constant competition from around the world to maintain that leadership. And as global competition continues to grow, it is critical that the institution driving innovation improve their ability to develop products and services with market relevance and economic value.”
In the program, a team of NMSU faculty and administrators will work with Epicenter staff to design and implement a plan for the university. NMSU will receive access to faculty training, successful models for integrating entrepreneurship into the curriculum, a national network of engineering and entrepreneurship faculty, and membership in a peer network of schools with similar goals.
NMSU students will benefit directly from the program. “Today’s engineering students need to graduate with more than just technical skills,” Tom Byers, director of Epicenter and professor at Stanford University, said. “Engineers need the tools and attitudes to help them identify opportunities and bring their ideas to life.”
“The Pathways to Innovation program is another example of how we are taking a leadership role at NMSU,” Patricia Sullivan, assistant dean of the College of Engineering and director of the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network, said. Sullivan said the university was invited to be one of the 12 universities because of the leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation efforts that are already in place across campus. “The NMSU engineering program is often recognized for staying on top of industry needs, and our participation will ensure our graduating students continue to be regionally and globally competitive,” Sullivan said.
The Epicenter program is “an opportunity for us to showcase the things we’re doing and jumpstart relevant changes to our curriculum,” said Edward Pines, department head of Industrial Engineering and enterprise adviser for Arrowhead Center’s Arrowhead Innovation Network engineering. “We have an opportunity to learn from others in the cohort and contribute to best practices that can be transferred to other universities,” he said.
Sullivan and Pines serve as the NMSU Pathways team leaders. Faculty members include Phillip DeLeon, professor in the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Jessica Houston, associate professor of chemical engineering, and Rolf Sassenfield, assistant professor in engineering technology and surveying engineering.
“As the program launches, we’re excited to see how each school borrows and adapts from the best models and practices in entrepreneurship and innovation education from around the country,” Liz Nilsen, manager of the Pathways program for Epicenter and senior program officer at the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, said.
The other schools selected to participate in the first cohort of the Pathways program:
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
- The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
- Howard University
- Michigan Technological University
- Tennessee Technological University
- Texas A&M University
- University of California, Merced
- University of Massachusetts Lowell
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) is funded by the NSF and directed by Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. Their mission is to empower U.S. undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of the economy and society.