Why do two students enter the same workforce from similar academic backgrounds but perform at significantly different skill levels? What distinguishes one from the other in terms of preparedness? What else can academia and industry do to prepare their students for the “real world” besides pre-exposure to industry tools and software?
On this episode of Innovation in the Classroom, our host Dora Smith joins today’s guest, Dr. Oscar Barton, the Dean at Morgan State University’s Clarence Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering. He has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University. Before becoming Dean, he worked as a Professor and Department Chair at George Mason University.
In this episode, you will learn about Oscar’s experiences as Dean at Morgan State University and Professor and Department chair at George Mason University, as well as how institutions can better prepare students entering the workforce.
Morgan State University Adjustments during COVID
When Oscar joined Morgan State University, he discovered that some students and faculty needed more time to prepare for a tech-savvy environment. During the pandemic, some student resources were constrained, and many didn’t have computers and internet access. Initially, it was challenging for Oscar to transform the institution into a dynamic learning environment. Regular training took place to recraft face-to-face experiences as best possible online. He then discussed the guiding principles for building a positive academic community.
Guiding Principles of Building a Positive Culture
The most important rule is that faculty and students function as a team and depend on each other. Another essential aspect of building that cultivating environment was creating a vision as a whole. Working collectively and being open, honest, and consistent in communication is critical to that positive culture.
How to Prepare Students for Industry
Morgan State University encouraged students to get out of their seats and gain as much from co-curricular and experiential learning as possible. Early and often student engagement through internships, co-op experiences, or industry projects is vital to prepare students for industry. The institution also builds enterprise projects for students from their first year through their senior year, where students will work collectively as a team to simulate “real world” projects.
Oscar believes that increased flexibility in elective selections is important for academic development, as it adds more variety to students’ coursework and positively impacts students’ mental health. The elective courses provide opportunities for students to choose the focus of their degree and take ownership of their careers.
Latest Technologies and Partnerships
One way to involve industry in the classroom is through micro-credentialing, which gives students an insight into their career readiness. Another way to align universities with the constantly innovating and evolving industry is through partnerships. Industry partners help institutions reduce the gap between what’s been done in the classroom and changes in the industry. Learn more about becoming a Siemens University Partner here!
Mechatronics Program at Morgan State University
The Mechatronics Program at Morgan State University aims to equip students with fundamental mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering knowledge, preparing them for careers in mechatronics engineering or one of its associated fields. World Economic Forum surveys indicate that cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins and digital threads, robotics, microelectronics, semiconductors, and a few others are the driving jobs of the future in industry. Oscar took those Industry 4.0 technologies as the framework for the Mechatronics Program. The platform exposes students to emerging and existing technologies in the curriculum, which helps prepare students for Industry 4.0.
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And one thing I thought is essential is communication — being open, being honest, and being consistent in what we share really enhances what I think will be a positive culture for the academy.– Oscar Barton
Innovation in the Classroom Podcast
Innovation in the Classroom by Siemens explores best practices to empower the next generation of digital talent. In this podcast series, Dora Smith takes you through discussions with leading voices from the world of engineering education who are preparing future engineers in Academia 4.0 to shape the world of innovation.