Administrators and government officials should cultivate innovative fields.
In 1951, then-President Harry Truman and the National Society of Professional Engineers established National Engineers Week to celebrate the field’s contributions to society and to spotlight the importance of cultivating math, science and technical skills.
The Temple News agrees, as President Barack Obama said in a statement to the observers of this year’s NEW, that “in order for America to win the future, we need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”
But investing in engineering is about more than one-upping international competitors. It’s about improving the quality of life – physically, economically and socially – for people who live in the United States.
As the question of whether freezing or increasing spending will speed the nation’s economic growth and halt its plummeting financial debt, NEW should serve as a reminder to both government officials and higher education administrators that progress in the math and science fields is not a luxury – it’s crucial to the country’s fiscal, technological and innovative development.
“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” Obama said during his Jan. 25 State of the Union address. “But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”
Just as Gov. Tom Corbett should uphold these traditional investments, administrators should be aware of the valuable academic support and scholarships hold.
Kevin Carmack, a 1984 mechanical engineering and architecture alumnus who worked 40 hours per week as a waiter to finance his Temple education, has overseen $365 million worth of technology to improve the Hubble Space Telescope’s trajectory back to Earth.
Lynne Tarka Erwell, the first woman to be accepted to the electrical engineering program and a 1986 alumna, founded Prism Engineering, Inc. with her husband, John, a lead certified provider of design engineering and manufacturing software, which has trained and benefited thousands of engineers and architects across the country.
But if funding to engineering dwindles, so will alumni like Erwell and Carmack.
To expect instant gratification from innovative research investments would be foolish – but to expect a better higher-education system and U.S. without it would be even more so.