Day: April 24, 2009

Three Michigan Tech Graduate Engineering Programs Ranked in Top 50

Tech Today

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

Graduate school rankings released today by US News & World Report rank three of Michigan Tech’s graduate engineering programs in the top 50 nationwide. The annual rankings evaluated 198 graduate schools of engineering.

Michigan Tech’s programs ranked as follows:
* environmental engineering: 33
* mechanical engineering: 48
* materials science and engineering: 49

Two other graduate programs at Michigan Tech ranked in the top 100 nationwide, as did the College of Engineering overall. Those rankings include:
* civil engineering: 58
* geological and mining engineering and sciences: 77
* College of Engineering: 82

“Our long-term goal is to advance the reputation of our graduate programs,” said President Glenn D. Mroz. “That is not a timid goal, but we know what we need to do; it is spelled out in our strategic plan. We are laying the groundwork now, and we know it won’t happen overnight. We are competing with the best universities in the US and the world for resources and talented graduate students. But Michigan Tech is becoming more and more competitive.”

Each year, US News & World Report ranks graduate schools of business, education, engineering, law and medicine. According to the magazine, the rankings are based on two kinds of data–the opinions of graduate school deans, program directors, senior faculty and employers of new graduates, and statistical measures such as student-to-faculty ratio, faculty research activity and doctoral degrees awarded.

Engineering specialties are ranked solely on the basis of assessments by department chairs in each specialty. The American Society for Engineering Education recommends the names of department chairs to be surveyed.

The rankings will be featured in the May 2009 issue of US News & World Report. Information is also available at www.usnews.com/grad and www.usnews.com/aboutgrad .


NSF Awards $4 Million to Michigan Tech to Build Earth Science Teaching Model in Grand Rapids

Tech Today

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

Some of the most pressing problems facing the world today–climate change, earthquakes and volcanoes, energy and water resources–are in a field of science most Americans haven’t studied since their middle-school earth science class. So Michigan Tech is partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Schools and other groups in Michigan, Washington, DC and Colorado to help students learn more about the earth.

The new program, called MiTEP (Michigan Teaching Excellence Program), is funded by a $4 million, five-year National Science Foundation Math Science Partnership grant. It brings university geoscience researchers and middle-school teachers together to identify ways to make earth science more exciting and meaningful to middle-school students.

In the process, the project hopes to motivate more young people to consider further education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, fields known collectively as STEM. Educators nationwide have expressed concern about a declining interest in STEM among today’s students. STEM professionals are in high demand and are viewed as critical in our nation’s effort to maintain its leadership role in the world’s economy.

“Middle school earth science is a particularly important area because it is often the first secondary science course taken by students,” said Jacqueline Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School. The MiTEP partners believe that if students have a good experience in their middle-school course, they will be enthusiastic about taking more science in high school. Students who like science are more likely to do well in their science classes, so improving attitudes early on may have long-term benefits.

MiTEP will use an innovative approach to improving student learning by bringing together practicing scientists and Grand Rapids teachers to collaborate on improving instruction. Active partners in addition to Michigan Tech and the Grand Rapids Public Schools include the Grand Rapids Area Pre-College Engineering Program (GRAPCEP), the American Geological Institute, the National Park Service, Grand Valley State University and the Colorado School of Mines.

Sleeping Dunes National Park and Keweenaw National Historical Park will also be key players. “We recognize and want to fully utilize the power of place in teaching,” Huntoon explained.

Ann Benbow, director of education and outreach at the American Geological Institute, is excited about participating in the new program. “This new research-based program will help those in the geoscience education community to make better-informed decisions when designing earth science curricula, implementing instruction and providing professional development opportunities for teachers,” she said.

Unlike many educational fix-it projects, MiTEP researchers will work closely with the classroom teachers and school district representatives to collect information to help them identify effective ways to improve student learning and attitudes. Teachers have a real leadership role in the project. Teachers’ input is being used by the researchers to develop professional development activities that are tailored to meet the needs of the Grand Rapids schools. Curricula and teaching methods developed for the MiTEP project will be carefully evaluated to determine which are most effective in improving student learning.

“We’re talking about a fundamental and much-needed study of how to best reform science education, one that could make an enormous difference to the future of our nation,” said Huntoon.

“This project has tremendous potential because Michigan’s educational issues are typical. This project could serve as a template for improving STEM education throughout the country,” added Bill Rose, a professor of geology and lead researcher on the project.

Grand Rapids Public School science teachers are being recruited now for two weeks of intensive training in June, one week on the Michigan Tech campus and the other in Grand Rapids. The grant will cover substantial teacher stipends, travel funds, equipment and supplies and release time for professional development. Participating teachers can also earn up to 20 graduate credit hours at no cost.

“We are pleased to be part of an opportunity that allows our great teachers to strengthen their content knowledge and bolster our curriculum with real-life experiences,” said Bill Smith, science curriculum supervisor for the Grand Rapids Public Schools.