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Thoughts about Chicago creating an Engineering School?


Replies to: Thoughts about Chicago creating an Engineering School?

  • UMTYMP studentUMTYMP student Registered User Posts: 949 Member
    I think the comparison between engineering at Chicago and English at MIT although initially appealing is deeply flawed. For starters many non-majors will take some English classes so there is enough current demand for a smallish English department. The vast majority of engineering classes have no appeal to non-engineers. You can also make an English major out of mostly general education classes combined with a couple of somewhat more specialized classes. It won't be ideal or even adequate for the aspiring literary theorist but if you to wanted to primarily study English you probably shouldn't have come to MIT. MIT also has cross-enrollment with Harvard which obviously has extensive English offerings. Engineering majors on the other hand need lots of dedicated courses which will have virtually no appeal to non-engineering majors. Some of these classes will need to be only for a certain engineering major as well.

    The conclusion is that while it's feasible for MIT to offer an English major that has about 1 major per year it would cost a huge amount for Chicago to offer engineering majors for a presumably similar number of engineering majors. The cost of starting an engineering school (labs, research funds, etc.) are also much greater than offering some English courses
  • jak321jak321 - Posts: 173 Junior Member
    @UMTYP student
    I completely agree with you, but I think Wendeli, who originally brought up the comparison between Engineering at Chicago and English at MIT, was referring to a prospective student's perspective. Ceteris Paribus, a student may pick MIT over Chicago purely because at MIT, they would have the option of going down the Engineering or Humanities/Social/Physical Sciences Sciences road, while at Chicago, Engineering is not an option. From a college's perspective, offering English is far simpler (and far more essential) than offering Engineering, of course.
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    bumped for those newly admitted...
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    see discussion on Chicago's future without engineering/STEM
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,416 Senior Member
    I think it's a bit too late (and would require money the university doesn't have, along with an ideological shift the university may not be prepared to take) for an engineering school at UChicago. The goal of the college is to be a classic liberal arts school (more akin to the Amherst or Swarthmore model than Harvard or Northwestern), and all of a sudden opening an engineering school would fly in the face of that.

    Either way, at least vis a vis the big boys (Harvard, Stanford, etc.), UChicago is not well-positioned for STEM. It has a lot of ground to make up, and not as much money to get the ball rolling.

    (To start, though, I think UChicago should beef up its computer science program. From what I know, it tends to be very theoretical and not particularly well regarded. This is now an important discipline that could be bolstered at much, much less cost than building an engineering school.)
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,992 Senior Member
    Chicago is fine on the S&M; everyone says so. ("Spank me, whip me, make me read The Iliad!") It's on T&E that Chicago is a little ET.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,416 Senior Member
    Haha, clever, JHS. Engineering and Tech are two blossoming fields - and the school has ground to make up. I think establishing a relatively small but high quality, more traditional, comp sci program is feasible, and to the interest of the school. I'm not sure why strides haven't been taken in this direction.
  • idadidad Registered User Posts: 5,027 Senior Member
    Chicago will be a leader in molecular engineering. As for computer science, they don't seem to be doing too poorly, "Computer programming team advances to World Finals again."
    Department of Computer Science
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle, may be the best hope for Chicago (the only research university without an engineering school) to create a significant school of engineering. He has the deep pockets to do it...and it would be a lasting legacy to his great vision beyond Oracle to produce future engineers/visionaries/entrepreneurs in this global world of technology.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,416 Senior Member
    gravitas2 - not sure where this is coming from. Ellison attended UChicago for one quarter. There are indications that his time may have been formative, but certainly not enough say, for him to stay longer than 10 weeks on campus. Not sure if that tenuous connection would lead him to donate the ~$500M it'd take to start a first-rate school of this sort.
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    Cue7. He is 69 years old and I believe he will soon, if not now, start looking to leave a LASTING LEGACY beyond his company, boats, races, etc. I believe he is a strong advocate of science and engineering education. He has been strongly supportive of producing more engineers and scientists in this country and he is frustrated at how few go into engineering/technology compared to other countries. If President Zimmer were to approach him with his ties to Chicago, no matter how short, and convince him of his vision for a new engineering school with his (Ellison's) imprint on it...he may be seriously interested. I know at one point several years ago he was thinking about donating half billion to Harvard for some "institute" as well which fell through.

    Larry Ellison Biography -- Academy of Achievement
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    same copy same copy
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,416 Senior Member
    Sure that'd be nice. The key first step is seeing if UChicago itself is actually serious about opening an engineering school that would offer, ostensibly, undergraduate degrees. I see no real signs of an ideological shift in this direction, just as UChicago won't be opening an accounting school or journalism school.
  • gravitas2gravitas2 Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    Cue7. No matter how much I love and respect my alma mater, I am very concerned that without a legitimate/strong engineering/technology component of STEM (we have the S&M as JHS humorously mentioned) Chicago may lose its RELEVANCE in producing future leaders and shakers who will "create" companies and jobs in the technology driven 21st century. Moreover, it will be difficult for many of Chicago grads to sit at the table amongst other "engineering" entrepreneurs/leaders without having "similar" backgrounds...

    ...as more and more private universities are reliant on major donations from alumni and friends of the institutions for their competitive survival...where the deep pockets are coming from will be a major challenge. Stanford, with all its company connections throughout Silicon Valley and world-wide, will continue to lead every institution in yearly donations to keep the university on the leading edge. Even Harvard knows without shoring up its engineering/computer science departments, they will not be able to keep up with Stanford...

    ...of note, the donations to institutions benefit and support all the departments of the university...that is why the endowments made up of donations and investments must be strong and healthy for the survival of this University.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,416 Senior Member

    I completely agree with you, and I think we're already seeing signs of UChicago slipping in terms of its relevance regarding major STEM research. I think even just bolstering the comp sci dep't (which is not especially highly rated) would be helpful.

    Opening an engineering school would be a monumental undertaking, and would take time to be "digestible" to key UChicago stakeholders (like the faculty). Even schools with engineering schools, like Princeton and Yale, are facing the very real possibility of falling behind the juggernaut that is Stanford.

    I think what you'll eventually see is that UChicago will maintain its standing as an elite "intellectual" center, but it won't be a major player in terms of STEM. Hopkins, Columbia, Penn, and NU will probably be bigger players on that front. Cornell has made big strides in this front too. UChicago will maintain a very elite liberal arts college, and for classic academic disciplines - physics, chemistry, history, economics - it'll maintain excellent standing. For STEM, though, location plays a factor - and UChicago's geographic location is a big detriment. The East and West Coasts continue to be the hubs for this economic growth.

    Frankly, it may be a bit of too little too late.
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