College of Engineering

Engineering Seminar: The Seductive Equation -- and the Future of Technological Education

Domenico Grasso, Ph.D., P.E., DEE

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; 12:30 - 2:00 PM
Library Browsing Area


ABSTRACT

The future of the American economy rests, in large measure, in the hands and heads of the students that sit in our university classrooms today.  Indeed, in his 2006 State of the Union address, the president noted that although "the American economy is preeminent, ...we cannot afford to be complacent."  The dawn of the twenty first century gives us time to pause and reflect on what educational reforms will be necessary to educate the builders of the next millennium.

It is not uncommon for many in the academy to have conflated the broad education of students with the rigorous training necessary to function as professionals in a given discipline (math, computer science, engineering); commonly giving the lion's share of attention to the latter and only scant advice or attention to the former.  

Students look to the faculty for advice and guidance on what they should "learn" to allow them to lead rich and productive lives, both professionally and personally.  There is a tacit understanding that the faculty will guide their education such that they may both obtain positions that will provide financial security and grow intellectually for the rest of their lives.

However, technological education has been defined and informed by a suite of seductive equations. What are they and what have been their consequences?  Why are our students so easily seduced?  How do we ensure that our graduates are not only well prepared to enter their professions but have also acquired skill sets that are the hallmark of a university education? And finally, how do we rethink our educational process to achieve a competitive edge in the global marketplace while forging a path toward a sustainable future?

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Dr. Domenico Grasso is the Dean of the College of Engineering and Mathematics at the University of Vermont. He holds a B.Sc. from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. from Purdue University and a Ph.D. from The University of Michigan.  He is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Connecticut and Texas, and a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.  Prior to joining UVM,  Dr. Grasso was Rosemary Bradford Hewlett Professor and Founding Director of the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, the first engineering program at a women's college in the United States; and Professor and Head of Department in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He has been a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, a NATO Fellow, and an Invited Technical Expert to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna Austria. He is currently Vice-Chair of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, past President of the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors, Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Engineering Science, and Associate Editor of Reviews in Environmental Science and Biotechnology.  He has authored more than 100 technical papers & reports, including four chapters and two books. Federal, state and industrial organizations have supported his research work.  He serves on advisory boards at Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, WPI, and the National Academy of Engineering.

In 1998, Professor Grasso served on a World Bank funded international team of scholars that established the first environmental engineering program in Argentina.   In 2000, The Water Environment Federation named him a "Pioneer in Disinfection".  He recently chaired a U.S. Congressional briefing entitled "Genomes & Nanotechnology: The Future of Environmental Research".  

An environmental engineer who studies the ultimate fate of contaminants in the environment and develops new techniques to reduce the risks associated with these contaminants to human health or natural resources, Professor Grasso's research focuses on molecular scale processes that underlie nature and behavior of contaminants in environmental systems. He views engineering as a bridge between science and humanity, making it particularly well suited for incorporation into a liberal arts universities.  His classes, although technically rigorous, also explore the societal and philosophical issues facing engineers and scientists.

Professor Grasso, his wife Susan Hull Grasso, also an engineer, and children, Benjamin, Jacob, Elspeth, and Caitlín enjoy hiking, camping and a variety of musical and athletic activities.

Author: "Dr. Antonio H. Costa"
Date: 13-4-2006

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