Faculty from English, Engineering to lead Templeton Institute

Publication Date
Andrew Burkett

Andrew Burkett

Ashok Ramasubramanian

Ashok Ramasubramanian

Two Union College faculty members – one from humanities, one from engineering – have been named to co-lead the Templeton Institute, a strategic initiative to further Union’s signature integration of engineering and computer science with other disciplines, and to support the recruitment of women to those fields.

Andrew Burkett, associate professor of English, and Ashok Ramasubramanian, professor of mechanical engineering, are the new co-directors of the Templeton Institute of Engineering and Computer Science, as was announced by Michele Angrist, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Burkett will continue in his role as director of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program. Ramasubramanian will also serve as the College’s Dean of Engineering.

“Both colleagues bring valuable experience, expertise and passion to their respective roles,” Angrist said. “Andy and Ashok possess many and complementary strengths that promise to make this a fruitful partnership. I thank them for their willingness to serve and I look forward to working with them to advance the goals of the Templeton Institute.”

The Templeton Institute is made possible by a gift of $51 million from 1980 graduates Rich and Mary Templeton. The gift supports the integration of engineering and computer science with the liberal arts, the recruitment and retention of women pursuing a degree in engineering or computer science, enhancements to the curriculum, faculty development and facilities. Rich Templeton is chair of the board of Texas Instruments.

Burkett has a long record of interdisciplinary work connecting the humanities to the sciences, social sciences, and engineering. In particular, he has collaborated with colleagues across campus around the Digital Humanities. He helped to develop a web-based browser to access the works of William Blake in new ways. He team-taught a course in which students linked the recitation of Romantic poetry with computer visualization techniques.

With a colleague, he led the revisioning of the Science, Technology, and Society Interdisciplinary Studies Program and developed a new team-taught course, “Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society,” which will be the first course offering affiliated with the Templeton Institute this Fall term. He also led the creation of the STS program’s new minor in Digital Studies.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with Prof. Ramasubramanian, Dean Angrist and the rest of our TI team,” said Burkett. “I’m particularly excited to collaborate with my colleagues from across campus to explore new research and teaching possibilities for the further integration of Digital Studies at Union. And I am passionate about helping our colleagues to foster interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches that will allow us to think beyond our traditional academic departments and divisions at the College.”

Ramasubramanian’s background includes graduate training in electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering. His research at Union has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

In addition to his interest in integrating engineering with the liberal arts, he has a strong passion for biodiversity and conservation. Committed to supporting underrepresented students in STEM, he has worked with the STEP and Rise High programs to bring local youth to his lab. He has served as advisor to several of Union’s engineering competition teams. He serves on the boards of two local non-profits: the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. He also serves on the Conservation Advisory Council in the Town of Niskayuna.

“I look forward eagerly to working with Prof. Burkett, Dean Angrist and outgoing Associate Dean Jennifer Currey,” Ramasubramanian said. “I am a strong believer in bringing liberal arts and engineering together. This integration is not only excellent preparation for the students, but it is also extremely beneficial to the teachers involved.”

Angrist acknowledged the work of Jennifer Currey, associate professor of electrical, computer and biomedical engineering, who has served as Associate Director and Director of the Templeton Institute and leader of key planning and steering committees associated with the broader Engineering & Computer Science Initiative. “It is not an exaggeration to say that Jenn has been the single most impactful campus leader driving, ideating and organizing the Templeton Initiative to this point,” Angrist said.

“The Templeton Institute promises to have a transformative effect in blurring the traditional boundaries that for too long have separated disciplines of learning, in so doing, enhancing what a Union education will mean for future generations of students” Angrist said. “It will also play a vital role in making STEM more accessible to underrepresented students. I look forward to the leadership of Profs. Burkett and Ramasubramanian and the future of the Templeton Institute.”