Liberal arts and engineering: A perfect Union

Publication Date

Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will deliver the keynote address when Union hosts its annual symposium on integrating liberal arts with engineering.


The three-day symposium kicks off with dinner and opening remarks by President Stephen C. Ainlay at 6:45 p.m. Friday, June 1, in Hale House. Vest’s talk, “Engineering and the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century University,” follows at 7:45 p.m. He will be introduced by John E. Kelly III ’76, senior vice president and director of research at IBM. To view Vest’s bio, click here.

Leaders from a number of schools, including Swarthmore, Trinity, Oklahoma State, California Polytechnic University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will gather in six sessions Saturday and Sunday to share different models for integrating engineering, technology and the traditional liberal arts.

The opening session features Timothy J. Kriewall from the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) discussing “A Whole New Engineering Model,” and the need for students to have a strong liberal arts influence to thrive in a technology-driven society.

Union is among 20 schools who have received support from KEEN to develop more entrepreneurial-minded students by updating current curriculum, hosting best practices workshops by KEEN for faculty and creating a speaker series. Others include Boston University, Baylor, Villanova and Bucknell.

A number of Union faculty will also present at the symposium.

Most sessions are in the F.W. Olin Center.

“We hope these experts can shed light on tackling a vexing problem: sustaining these integration efforts within the practical resource constraints of educational institutions and fluctuating enrollments across majors,” said Andrew Rapoff, director of engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering. He also helped organize the event.

This marks the fifth year the College has hosted a conference on integrating engineering and the liberal arts, which has attracted national attention, including a feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In 1845, Union became the first liberal arts college to offer engineering in response to the needs of a nation characterized by rapid industrial and urban growth.

This year’s symposium is funded in part by the David Falk ’39 and Elynor Rudnick-Falk Endowed Fund and the Laurence W. Levine ’52 and Barry Traub ’53 Endowed Lecture Fund. Previous supporters have included the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.