Contributed by DeAnna Leitzke, Milwaukee School of Engineering. This article originally appeared in KEEN Annual Report, 2019-2020. Reprinted with permission.
Institutional change takes steady and intentional leadership. This can be especially challenging for an institution with more than 100 years of history.
Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) was built on a project-based, experiential learning approach to supply job-ready engineers for an industrial-based local economy.
That tradition was enhanced two decades ago in recognition of both the skillset and mindset needed to solve the complex challenges of the modern world.
At that time, MSOE’s tenets grew to include Servant-Leadership, an approach that teaches professionals to have a commitment to serving others while encouraging excellence in both the leader and the community served.
But through a recent strategic planning initiative, stakeholders described more robust attributes for MSOE graduates. These included entrepreneurial mindset (EM) components described in the KEEN framework. Leaders revisited the skillset/mindset framework at MSOE to reshape it for the future. Associate professor, DeAnna Leitzke, led the effort to develop what is now the MSOE Mindset.
While believing that many of the elements of EM have been implicit in MSOE’s education delivery all along, Leitzke says, “To make a true and lasting impact, all desired outcomes should be intentionally and explicitly stated. Doing so makes the principles of the mindset easier for students to personally identify with and adopt.”
While the MSOE Mindset is useful as a framework, MSOE established the CREATE Institute (Community-focused Real-world Engagement in Academics Through Experiential-learning), to implement it, with Leitzke as Director.
CREATE focuses on three main areas: faculty, students, and community. It serves as a resource for faculty professional development and curriculum integration, provides programming for students, and offers a clearinghouse connection to community and industry partners interested in developing real-world project experiences for students.
Together CREATE leadership, faculty, and students establish the tools and processes needed to provide the many real-world experiential learning student opportunities. To help establish a culture and to sustain the program through the years, cohorts of CREATE Student Fellows serve as faculty assistants and student mentors to train the following generation of MSOE student leaders.
The CREATE Institute ensures that throughout their academic careers at MSOE, all students receive well-rounded, high-impact educational experiences that enhance the relevancy of their learning.
Leitzke states, “Before first-year student classes even start, they are introduced to the MSOE Mindset and the accompanying attributes. By the time the students walk across the stage at graduation, they will have the strong technical skillset that is our tradition, plus they will have deeply developed the MSOE Mindset characteristics. The MSOE Mindset identifies graduates as leaders of character, responsible professionals, passionate learners, and value creators.”
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