December 6, 2010

An Engineering Culture

There was an article in the New York Times recently that summarized the comments made by several industry leaders here in the US and in Great Britain recently about these countries turn away from manufacturing. An interesting piece in the Times' article is the emphasis on an "engineering culture" and how this lack affects the economy and society.  James Dyson's recent report to the British government, Ingenious Britain, highlights the need for government to sponsor and fund large engineering projects both to stimulate excitement in engineering and technology and create the jobs that turn interest into careers.  The Times' article states:
"For decades, France has nurtured big engineering endeavors, like nuclear power and high-speed trains. The graduates of France’s leading engineering schools are among the elite of French society."
Other calls for more of an engineering culture have been put forward on this side of the Atlantic by Andy Grove of Intel (covered in a previous post) and Jeffery Immelt of GE who said candidly:
"Many bought into the idea that America could go from a technology-based, export-oriented powerhouse to a services-led, consumption base economy – and somehow still expect to prosper. That idea was flat wrong. And what did we get in the bargain? We’ve seen a great vanishing of wealth. Our competitive edge has slipped away, and this has hit the middle class hard." 
Unspoken in these reports is the criticism that the engineering profession--especially those that profess to be engineering educators--was somehow complicit in letting this happen.  I believe this to be true.  As long as we focus on content, as long as we discuss equations, principles, and concepts we are safe.  Safe from straying into the messy and subjective realms of economics and politics and religion.  Safe from those that profess belief that is not backed up by fact or reason.  This course of non-involvement is, in some ways, prudent.  The rise of demagoguery and concurrent demise of reasoned discourse is unsettling to many engineers.  The decision to stay well away from the polemics of politics is a safe course and for many faculty part of an unstated code of ethics.

But yet...  The engineering profession does have its own set of beliefs as the above public statements by engineering leaders indicates.  While these beliefs are by no means monolithic across the profession they do exist.  Outsiders may wonder about our unwillingness to stand up and fight for these beliefs, or to pass them on to our students.  These actions become understandable when one realizes that the engineering profession's unwillingness to articulate, inculcate, and defend our beliefs are, in fact, part of the beliefs of our discipline. 

I don't really understand the origins of this attitude, but it may arise from the simple fact that over time we become what we do.  Most engineers' work is driven by data and numbers; we learn to dismiss statements not backed up by data.  We are reinforced in this behavior by the difficulty of what we do; embracing a data-driven life, like Thomas Merton's asceticism, requires year of discipline to pay off.  But there are things in the world that cannot yet be quantified, and perhaps never can be.  Does our focus on data make us less able to accept, embrace, defend, or articulate such ephemeral things as values?  I am reminded of James Branch Cabell's character Jurgen who upon seeing a vision of Helen of Troy understood that his life experiences had made him incapable of expressing passion:
"At the bottom of my heart, I no longer desire perfection.  For we who are taxpayers as well as immortal souls must live by politic evasions and formulae and catchwords that fret away our lives as moths waste a garment;  we fall insensibly to common-sense as to a drug; and it dulls and kills whatever in us is rebellious and fine and unreasonable; as so you will find no man of my years with whom living is not a mechanism which gnaws away time unprompted.  For within this hour I have become again a creature of use and wont; I am the lackey of prudence and half-measure; and I have put my dreams upon an allowance."
Engineers need to be careful not to let our values go unremarked or under-appreciated.  We need to more explicitly teach our beliefs and our way of looking at life.  If there was ever a time in history to stand up for faith in reason, for using data to make decisions, for balancing human need with the hard facts of the universe that time is now.

August 15, 2010

Are they lazy or just bored?

Two academics associated with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, recently came out with a report that examined several data sets and found declines in study times over an approximately forty year span of time. The data, which seems to have undergone a rigorous analysis, indicates students are studying less now and devoting more time to leisure. The article and the write-up about it in many ways support the observations and beliefs of many faculty members who deal with students on a day-to-day basis.

The report's power is magnified by the fact that it is well written, short enough to actually finish, and sprinkled with memorable quotes such as:
“A nonaggression pact exists between many faculty members and students: Because the former believe that they must spend most of their time doing research and the latter often prefer to pass their time having fun, a mutual nonaggression pact occurs with each side agreeing not to impinge on the other.”
As such the report, as the authors subtly acknowledge, will join the growing body of literature that directly or indirectly excoriates higher education by presenting evidence of standards declines, over-catering to students, failures of self-regulation and accreditation, and the need to reform higher education along the lines of business ventures. In some ways both we faculty and the students deserve such criticism.

The comfort afforded from this report is the kind found when data backs up one's personal beliefs or observations. Many faculty will see in the report a reflection of their own conviction that students don't work as hard, that they are different and becoming harder to teach. And it is true that students have changed, but everything changes, and changes ceaselessly. What the report tries, but ultimately fails, to answer is why the significant reduction in number of hours studied is occurring.

The authors, who are economists, try some explanatory analysis which reflects their upbringing in the culture, beliefs, and assumptions of economics. A seeming assumption that is made is that students always act in their best economic interests.  A surprising statistic from the report is that study time makes a rather large difference in salary later in life:
"We find that postcollege wages are positively correlated with study time in college. The increase in wages associated with studying is small in the early postcollege years, but it grows over time, becoming large and statistically significant in the later years. By 2004, one standard deviation in hours studied in 1981 is associated with a wage gain of 8.8 percent."
But what if students don't act in their own (and society's) best economic interest, what if instead they act in their best personal interests?

To try to understand this issue a little bit better, and delve into the issue of why economic and personal interests may not be the same, I took the authors up on their offer in the article to provide more data on request. For the most recent data the authors provided the moments of the distribution:
  • Mean:  19.75373
  • Std. Dev.:  14.5910
  • Skewness:  1.334962
  • Kurtosis:  5.697429
If I plug these into Matlab [using the pearsrnd command for the geeks out there] and make a histogram of a random distribution of 10,000 students with these numbers, this is what I get...
The red line is the average hours studied (19.75) while the green line is the hours a student is expected to study if they were taking 15 student credit hours (SCH) and worked 2-3 (average 2.5) hours outside of class for each hour spent in class.  Since I'm an engineer, the visual of the figure really brings home the fact that most students simply don't study as much as we expect.  The question is, why?

There are some interesting quotes from the article [which I acknowledge are taken out of context] that may support the viewpoint that students are not motivated to study...
"By contrast, students in 2006 in the University of California system spent 11.4 hours per week playing on their computers “for fun”—a category of leisure that would not have existed in 1961."
Or this...
"In the past, then, some students may have worked hard to signal they were high-ability types, relative to the other students in their college. But if students within a given college are now of similar ability, grades or rankings may now lack content as a signal."
The latter quote comes from the authors' putting forth an explanation which is based on students using grades to make themselves look good for employers.  Basically the argument goes that since there are fewer ability differences between students within the same college, students no longer need to distinguish themselves from peers by working hard to get good grades. 

All of these are possible explanations...  However, lets go back and look at the quote on wage gains v.s. study time.  The data says--assuming that the standard deviation of 14.6 hours per week is about the same in 1981--that if you study 14 hours more a week, you can expect to make 8.8% more later in life.  I think for many students studying twice as long for more salary 25 years later is not seen as a wise investment.  Perhaps students value personal time more than potential future wage gains?  Perhaps they are different than their parents in that they have less faith that working hard today for unquantifiable future gains is a wise investment of their time?  Perhaps they have lost faith that the economic system will treat them fairly, or perhaps there are simply too many interesting things to do now.

The fact students can create an identity they are valued for by doing activities besides working hard in school (James Gee has documented that playing video games is such an activity) is likely the biggest factor.  Economic arguments are valuable, but don't seem to capture the breadth of human behavior and motivation.  If the structure of universities doesn't change to acknowledge the need to build identity, then expect this worrisome trend to continue...

July 22, 2010

Scaling, not innovation

There was in interesting editorial in the business magazine Bloomberg by the founder of Intel, Andy Grove, on job creation.  In the editorial he shares his belief that for job creation the current focus on innovation and start-up companies, which we have wholeheartedly adopted in engineering education, needs to be matched by a stronger focus on "scaling".   In the editorial he defines scaling as "what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands."

Grove's article is about job creation, and the negative impact outsourcing has had on American companies ability to scale.  In the article he proposes a simple metric to measure job creation, the "employment effectiveness" which is the investment made up to a company's initial public offering (IPO) and divide that by the number of employees ten years later.  For start-ups like Intel and National Semiconductor back in the '80's this figure was around $2K to $10K.  Today, due to outsourcing and difficulty in scaling, Grove asserts it is more like $100K.

What does this mean for engineering education?  That we should all run out and write grants to develop programs to teach engineering students about scaling?  No, that will be learned after school.  Rather that in my opinion one of the most critical problems we face in engineering education is that of scaling, not innovation.  How do we scale the innovations in learning we have already developed?  How do we measure, in a simple and transparent way, the efficiency of scaling innovations to many degree programs?  What in our "business climate" hinder scaling?  What is our "educational efficiency" calculated in terms of investment in educational development costs to the number of students affected ten years later?

In his editorial Andy Grove went out on a limb to recommend what might be considered drastic measures to recover job growth in this country:
The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars -- fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability -- and stability -- we may have taken for granted. 
Our problem, and likely the solution, may be similar. Build an educational commons through financial incentives.  Encourage transparency in university finances and demand that some significant fraction of indirect costs be placed in this commons coffer, not for one university, but for all universities.  Colleges that wish to adopt, i.e. to scale, educational innovations by adopting proven techniques can tap into this fund.  Innovate on what an education commons will look like and how it can level the playing field not just between universities, but between all those involved in the educational endeavor..  Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make Magazine, has some brilliant ideas on this subject.

Days after I posted this, released a table of college's return on investment which they got by mining salary data. I have no idea how accurate this data is, but it is interesting to look think about in terms of other investments.

June 26, 2010

Skating away on the thin ice of a new day...

One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart (at least right now) is reform of higher education.  Counting my own time doing time in college, I have spent nearly thirty years in higher education and have seen many sides of the university- from small private institutions to large public schools, and from being a hard core research faculty member to being an educator.  Struggling to succeed in these roles has convinced me that while universities do some things well they, like many other institutions in our society, have lost their soul somewhere along the way.  We have become too focused on serving our own self-interests. But it is easy to throw pop bottle from the bleachers; if you want to change the status quo it helps to come to the battle with a competing idea.  In a decade of working on program reform in higher education, I've come to believe that it isn't the students, instructors, or content, rather the fundamental structure of universities needs to change. 

As a life-long, but not particularly avid, gamer I, like some others, have come to believe the future of the university will be built on role-playing games.  In fact a lot of this blog reflects this theme and I've done a few YouTube videos trying to garner support for this idea.  The other day I came across a fascinating talk on TED that added some mind-blowing numbers to the ones I've already collected: 
  • Active online gamers spend 10,000 hours of play by the time they are 21 (almost as much as the time spent in school).  Note that ten thousand hours is the time estimated to master new skills and the time spent in school from 5th to 12th grade.
  • There are 500 million active online gamers worldwide (that will grow to 1.5 billion in the next 10 years).  The Pew Charitable Trust sponsored a study looking at the age distribution of gamers.
  • In the game World of Warcraft a total of 5.93 million man-years has been invested by players around the globe. 
  • 3 billion hours a week are spent playing online games 
The really amazing statistic is the last one.  I guess it isn't that surprising given the number of gamers, but three billion man-hours is a lot of hours.  I started wondering what other endeavors reached the billion man-hour mark, and what immediately came to mind was man landing on the moon.  A little internet research turned up this from a NASA site:
"To realize the goal of Apollo under the strict time constraints mandated by the president, personnel had to be mobilized. This took two forms. First, by 1966 the agency's civil service rolls had grown to 36,000 people from the 10,000 employed at NASA in 1960. Additionally, NASA's leaders made an early decision that they would have to rely upon outside researchers and technicians to complete Apollo, and contractor employees working on the program increased by a factor of 10, from 36,500 in 1960 to 376,700 in 1965. Private industry, research institutions, and universities, therefore, provided the majority of personnel working on Apollo."

Let's estimate how many man-hours it took to put a person on the moon by making a couple of assumptions:
  1. Assume NASA spent 13 years, from 1960 to 1972, working on Apollo.  
  2. Lets say everyone on the program worked 261 days a year (weekends off but no vacation) for eight hours per day.
  3. The number of personnel stays constant over the 13 years at the 1965 number from the quote above- about 377,000. 
If I multiply all these numbers together estimate of the total man-hours to put a man on the moon several times is about ten billion man-hours.  The time, in terms of man-hours, it took to put a man on the moon is spent on on-line gaming in less than one month. I know this argument is somewhat flawed.  A lot of gamers are young people without the training of engineers, technicians and scientists; big projects require funding and infrastructure; project management is a huge problem; etc...  But still, the sheer time spent gaming is stunning.  

Most people, particularly academics, would consider this a waste of time.  As a gamer, I don't.  We've created alternative worlds that are more fun, and at some level rewarding, to play in than our real world.  It is not surprising many of our best minds, most creative students, seek reward through play since the motivations to game are the same motivations to create.  This is not a problem of individuals, but is a problem of society and rewards for effort.  A problem that needs to be solved both by individuals, by institutions, and by policy.  And in all the discussion of policy the word "fun" is rarely heard.

Here is a challenge for engineering educators...  Imagine a education system where your courses and programs weren't required, where there wasn't the carrot and stick of grades to goad students.  How in this system would you fill your classes, motivate your students, and engage their long term interest?

March 23, 2010

Four Short Commentaries on Recent News

There were four separate but related items in the news recently that seem to highlight the thin ice higher education finds itself crossing these days.

1)  Students Protest Increasing Costs :  This is a link from the national news which caught my attention the other day.  It seems students and faculty are protesting the decrease in funding to higher education that states are having to impose as they tighten budget.  While I feel for the students, years of self-indulgence and frivolous spending by universities aren't going to be undone by student protests; the change has to come from within faculty and administration.  Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation analogous to healthcare, the costs have gone up so much we can't serve those who so desperately need education to get ahead in the world.

2)  Ohio State Heads Down the Right Path:  President Gordon Gee, who I've lauded in earlier posts, supports two parallel faculty pathways to achieve tenure- one for research and one for teaching.  I've always thought that faculty members who are both excellent researchers and excellent teachers are rare and becoming rarer.  Having followed both paths myself there are inevitable sacrifices if one tries to be excellent in both of these disparate endeavors.  If not professionally, then certainly personally.  Almost every study that has looked at the correlation between research and teaching finds there isn't one.  Go Gee!

3)  Gates Foundation Supporting Transformational Change (alternate link):  The Gates Foundation, a relatively long-term supporter of changes to higher education, is looking more at the breaks in the secondary school to college pipeline, and rewarding schools who have the cojones to challenge the status quo.  I hope that throwing its considerable financial weight behind reform will stimulate schools to actually change their culture, but I am afraid it will simply stimulate university's money-hungry lizard brain without affecting the centers of reason, wisdom, and morality.

4)  John Hopkins crosses the $40,000 Tuition Barrier:  It seems that Johns Hopkins is the twelfth school to charge $40,000 tuition annually.  Consider, according to Wikipedia, that the median household income in the US was $50,233 in 2007, and that persons with doctoral degrees in the United States had an average income of roughly $81,400.  In Maryland (where Johns Hopkins is located) the median household income is $70,545, however.

February 17, 2010

Is the higher education bubble about to burst?

Let me start off by saying that I am asking questions rather than stating facts or opinions in this post. On October 9th of last year I wondered about how sustainable our current system of higher education was and concluded that we (higher education) may be in for an unpleasant surprise in the next decade. I recently gave a talk at my school's Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence (link to talk here) where I brought these questions up among faculty and stimulated some lively discussion. So today's post is devoted to expressing concerns and asking questions.

An article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the result of a study that shows the public is becoming less tolerant of the increasing costs of college.  In the last decade the percentage of people who believe college is necessary for success has gone up 24% (from 31% to 55%) while the percentage of those who feel that college is affordable for most qualified students has dropped 26% (from 54% to 28%).  A second article from Inside Higher Ed also reports on the finding and contains a quote from Richard Vedder about college:  "The bubble’s got to burst on this thing.... The staying power of colleges is amazing..."

I generally don't pay much attention to economics, and admit my (profound) ignorance of this field.  As an engineer my world is much more certain; tied more to physical reality and less to perceptions of value.  But to a non-economist, several trends appear if you look at data comparing the cost of five separate items from 1978 to now as shown in the figure below.  (Click figure to see it full size)

In my simplistic interpretation this figure says that if you had invested $100,000 in the Down Jones Industrial Average in 1978 your wealth world have peaked at $1,800,000 before the economic crisis and be about $1,200,000 today.  Your $100,000 home would have peaked at around $500,00 and be worth $400,000.  However $100,000 worth of "stuff" in 1978 would cost you $300,000 today unless that "stuff" was medical care or college.  A $100,000 hospital stay in 1978 would cost about $600,000 today while the $100,000 bill for sending four kids to college in 1978 would be over $900,000 today!  So hey, if you had invested in the stock market (ignoring mandatory fees and taxes) you would be on Easy Street.  Of course most of us don't have the good fortune to get a big windfall to make a one time investment.

Now lets be engineers at look at not only the values, but the slopes of the lines. Medical care and "stuff" have been going up at a pretty constant rate for 30+ years.  Houses have too, until around 2004 when the slope of the line increased- this was the housing bubble.  If you extrapolate the slope you'll see that house prices are about where they should be if the slope had been constant.  The DJIA, on the other hand, has been much more prone to fluctuations in slope.  However each increase in the slope (bubble) is followed by a correction.  The cost of college also followed a pretty straight line until around 2003, when the slope increased.  Is this a permanent change in the slope, or does it indicate the inflationary phase of a bubble? And what does a "college bubble" look like, does this term even have meaning?

One point to make is that what we are plotting here are fundamentally different things.  A home is a physical object that has value both from how desirable it is when you want to sell it, but also its ability to provide shelter.  A home has characteristics of both "want" and "need".  "Stuff" also includes both wants and needs. Both houses and stuff have actual value.  Medical care probably falls into the need category for most people and since you are buying a professional's services, it too has actual value as a service.  Stock prices, on the other hand, reflect peoples' perceptions of many factors; mainly their faith in the future performance of a company and the economy as a whole.  It isn't really a want or a need.  Nor does it have actual value, it has perceived value.  College, in my opinion, falls in a grey area between perceived value and actual value.  You actually buy some goods and services for the four or five years you're in college which have actual value. Education does provide better opportunities, but only to the extent that a college degree is perceived to have value.  If people did not perceive the value of college degrees, they would lose much of their value.  On the want-need scale, college seems to be moving more towards the need side in the public's perception.  Tying all of this together, it appears to me that things which rely on perception of value are more prone to rapid increases followed by deflationary bubbles.  Look at the change over 30 years in the DJIA and "stuff".  Things that people need likely sustain their value longer than things they simply want, particularly during hard time. 

College, in the grey area between actual need and perceived need is thus more prone to price fluctuations than homes, but less so than stock prices.  If these observations are correct, and I freely admit this is speculation, then if the perceived value of college decreases, one would expect a rapid drop in costs with commensurate pain for higher education.  So, as pointed out in the Inside Higher Ed article, the survey contains both good and bad news.  Good in that college is increasingly perceived as a need rather than a want, but bad in that we are unable to control costs and the public perception of college as a filthy venal house of slimy pandering reptiles is increasing.  So will the need of college continue to allow us to drive prices higher, or will the public's increasingly negative perception and a weak economy lead to alternatives to a degree that will pop the bubble?  It is probably good to remember that in every bubble people convinced themselves that they could pay inflated prices because the value of their investment would never go down.  It may not take that much to change peoples' perceptions and pop the bubble (if it exists).

So what does all this mean?
  • First, universities need to begin to plan for what happens if this hypothetical  bubble pops.  If the perception changes, then a college degree loses much of its value and we're going to have to pay the piper for years of living beyond our means.
  • Second, engineering educators should work for social justice within our own institutions.  We are pricing a larger fraction of our own citizens out of any real chance to make it in the world, and in my opinion this situation is intolerable.
  • Third, we need to consider what the public's perception will be if the bubble bursts, and the college degree they have paid so much for loses its perceived value.  Are we the next Wall Street?  Will we see signs like that below posted on our quadrangles?

February 5, 2010

Grades, grade inflation, and the myths associated with them

An article in the New York Times caught my eye the other day. It turns out that in the flaccid economy Princeton students are resenting their university's attempt to control grade inflation. About five or six years ago Princeton had 40% of grades be an "A" of some type. To try to rein in grades, they implemented a policy that (quoting from the NYT article): "Over time and across all academic departments, no more than 35 percent of grades in undergraduate courses would be A-plus, A or A-minus."

I must admit that I am somewhat of a radical when it comes to grades. I personally believe that if you stand back and take a long look at college education, grades hurt learning. There are several reasons for this belief, but they generally stem from just how inaccurate and insufficient a number like GPA is for classifying academic preparation. The NYT article has some interesting quotes that seem to support this opinion. For example:
"Historically, students in the natural sciences were graded far more rigorously, for example, than their classmates in the humanities, a gap that has narrowed but that still exists."
While at first glance this isn't that surprising, if one judges academic preparation or "rigor" solely by GPA and you assumed (incorrectly) GPA depends causally on academic ability, then students in the natural sciences are less academically prepared than students in the humanities. Of course this isn't true, there is a wide distribution of students in both disciplines. It is just variations in grading standards and practices by the different cultures.

Here is another line from the NYT article, this time a quote from a student in support of Princeton's measure to prevent grade inflation:
“What people don’t realize is that grades at different schools always have different meanings, and people at Goldman Sachs or the Marshall Scholarship have tons of experience assessing different G.P.A.’s”
Really? I have a really hard time predicting student performance in my own classes based on incoming GPA, and I probably know more about my program than 90% of the faculty in the department. While there have been a lot of studies showing GPA is correlated to various measures of academic performance, the truth is educational institutions can't, by accreditation agency dictate, use GPA or grades as a measure of student learning. While GPA is likely a good general measure of students' potential to thrive in an organization, I believe that employers would welcome more fine-grained measures provided they were given the tools to interpret them.

Another student quote, from a person opposing Princeton's policy, points out another danger of using grades as an overall measure of learning:
“People intuitively take a G.P.A. to be a representation of your academic ability and act accordingly. The assumption that a recruiter who is screening applications is going to treat a Princeton student differently based on a letter is na├»ve.”
One of the biggest problems of using a GPA as a de facto measure of students' ability is that then GPA becomes a measure of students' ability. If we (i.e. insitutions of higher learning) promote a number that others' use to measure "student ability" that we ourselves can't use to measure learning, we are guilty of hypocrisy at the very least. It is time for the engineering education community to begin to think about alternatives to traditional grades, alternatives that better describe our students's multi-faceted abilities.

January 10, 2010

Perspectives on Globalization from Panama

I just returned home for the first time in fifteen years. Home, for me, is the Republic of Panama where I grew up in the now defunct Canal Zone. Work, kids, and finances had kept me from returning along with the vague fear that the home that I remembered would have changed beyond recognition. It hadn't.

While much had changed, much remains the same. Some places I remembered were gone, new places had appeared. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was how much energy and commerce there was in the country. On an old Air Force base Panama built the biggest mall I have ever been it, and right next to it a gigantic terminal for buses. People from all over Panama and other parts of Central America shop at the mall and bring their purchases home on the bus. My wife, Karen, and I took air conditioned buses nearly to the Costa Rica border, a seven hour trip, for $12.60 each. The Panama Canal is being expanded, a huge container shipping port has been built, and the pristine and vacant beaches of my youth are dotted with forty story condo towers. Panama City is thriving, visitors and retirees are welcomed, and cell phones and internet bring changes to a centuries old culture.

We read about globalization, and as engineering educators think narrowly in terms of numbers of students, competition for jobs, H1B visas, and changing curricula. But this view is deceiving and limiting. Globalization also means that many corners of the globe are becoming more livable for those used to the amenities typically associated with "Western" Civilization. Globalization means that the number of problems that can be addressed by modern technologies (with its reliance on modern infrastructure) is growing dramatically. Globalization means that we need to look beyond our own borders for solutions to our problems, because they may have been solved by others before us. The "missionary zeal" we feel to bring the supposed advantages of Western cultures to the rest of the world is exposed as hubris.

Our students need international experiences, not, as often assumed in the talks I have attended, to give engineering expertise to the Third World, but to realize that the distinctions between First and Third Worlds are vanishing. Travel is not to play Prometheus and bring technology to the primitives, but to take ideas and energy and perspective from places where life moves faster and runs deeper.