College of Engineering & Mines

Updates for students, alumni, supporters and constituents

Collaboration is key to enhancing educational opportunities

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by the Grand Forks Herald. You can read the full article in it’s original format at the Grand Forks Herald’s website.

We are confident that increasing connections to employers and providing opportunities to learn engineering by working on real-world problems will help attract more students into the profession.

As the Dean of the College of Engineering & Mines at the University of North Dakota, I’m excited to see the growth in career opportunities for our students. Nearly every week, we are contacted by companies who need more engineers and are looking to find ways to connect with our students. Things have changed significantly over the past 30 years, as an alum of our program recently mentioned to me. Not that long ago, most graduates needed to move to Minneapolis or another large city to find employment. Today there are a wealth of opportunities across the region for our graduates, and almost anyone who wants to stay in the region will likely be able to do so.

Brian Tande
Brian Tande, Ph.D.

At the same time, I do have some concerns about our ability to meet that growing demand. As a native of North Dakota, I see our role in supporting economic growth as a critical part of our mission. I worry that challenging demographics and shifting attitudes toward higher ed will make it harder for us to attract students to our programs and produce the graduates our region needs. Advances in AI create additional challenges, as we work to figure out what impact these new tools will have on engineering education and practice. Ultimately, we need to approach these problems as engineers and find solutions in spite of new and uncertain sets of constraints.

It is my belief that those solutions must include increased collaboration both within and between institutions of higher education. Here at UND, we’ve worked hard to eliminate the silos that often exist between departments and colleges. The collaborative environment we’ve fostered makes it easier to work across campus to enhance educational opportunities for students and teach them how to work on multidisciplinary teams. One recent product of that environment is our new aerospace engineering program, which will launch this fall and be offered jointly between our college and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

When it comes to collaboration between institutions, I’ve found our colleagues at North Dakota State University to be very receptive to thinking about new ways of working together to help meet the needs of students and employers. I’m hopeful these discussions will lead to a seamless state-wide approach to engineering education and the creation of a more robust pipeline of engineering talent that also includes our high schools and other NDUS partner institutions. A great example of how to work between institutions is the joint UND-NDSU biomedical engineering graduate program, now in its sixth year. Programs like that can lead the way toward working more closely together to ensure North Dakota has the engineering workforce it needs to continue to grow.

We are also looking for new ways to deepen our relationships with our corporate partners and employers. Going beyond the traditional sponsored design projects and advisory boards, we are currently experimenting with an approach in which companies have a presence within our facility to work directly with students on projects. If successful, this approach could be incorporated into the design of a new engineering and science facility being planned on the UND campus. We are also exploring new ways of working with industry to decrease the cost of higher education for students through an apprenticeship-like program with manufacturing companies in our area. We are confident that increasing connections to employers and providing opportunities to learn engineering by working on real-world problems will help attract more students into the profession.

While the future of engineering education has its challenges and uncertainty, we remain optimistic about our ability to support the needs of the region and continued economic growth.

Brian Tande, PhD, is the dean of the College of Engineering and Mines and professor of chemical engineering at the University of North Dakota.