The progress and impact of the Templeton Institute and the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative

Publication Date

Union is a school that excels at both the liberal arts and engineering. As a college, our distinctive strength lies in our integrated approach to education.

A new gift from Mary ’80 and Rich Templeton ’80 will further enhance this strength, amplifying initiatives that foster interdisciplinary connectedness – like the Templeton Institute – and bolstering academic programs – like civil and environmental engineering.

“The Templetons’ generosity will enable us to grow undergraduate research and further develop our outstanding facilities for research, making, teaching and design,” said Ashok Ramasubramanian, dean of engineering and co-director of the Templeton Institute. “It will also enable us to deepen one of our core competencies and differentiators – our unique ability to teach rigorous engineering principles in a broad liberal education framework.”

This is a screenshot of a poster displaying the diverse participants of an AI panel held at Union in 2024.

“In addition to significantly boosting the experience of current students,” he added, “this thoughtful gift will help Union engineering attract high caliber students in future years.”

The Templeton Institute (TI) was created with a previous $51 gift from the Templetons and is a key pillar of the Union College Engineering and Computer Science Initiative (ECSI). Dedicated to promoting the integration of engineering and computer science and the liberal arts, the Templeton Institute brings together teachers, learners and practitioners from myriad fields to focus on academics as well as real-world challenges.

“We appreciate that the Templetons’ vision for Union is one in which students learn at the intersections of engineering, computer science and the liberal arts,” said Andy Burkett, professor of English and co-director of the Templeton Institute. “This vision enables the Templeton Institute to center attention on global challenges that, we recognize, no single discipline or division can claim priority in solving.”

“With topics ranging from investigation of the risks and affordances of artificial intelligence to contextualization of the history and science of nuclear technology,” he continued, “our recent TI programming showcases the ways that such interdisciplinarity defines a Union education.”

Some examples of recent TI offerings include:

  • A new course, “Introduction to Science, Technology and Society.” It was team-taught by faculty from English, computer science, classics and history, with a guest module from engineering faculty. (2023-24 academic year)
  • A Generative Artificial Intelligence Pedagogies panel that featured faculty from political science, philosophy and computer science. (Oct. 2023)
  • An “Oppenheimer” film viewing and panel discussion, held in partnership with Proctors Theatre, and the departments of film studies, physics and astronomy, and history. (Feb. 2024)

Other core areas of focus for the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative (ECSI) work in tandem with the Templeton Institute to ensure Union continues to be a bastion for interdisciplinary excellence.

  • ECSI supports current programs in engineering and computer science through new faculty hires, while also expanding the menu of programs offered in order to attract more students and diversify faculty and student populations.

  • ECSI will increase teaching and learning spaces on campus by developing plans for physical locations to house our growing engineering and computer science programs, as well as Templeton Institute programming.
    • The Integrated Science and Engineering Complex houses state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms and collaborative learning spaces devoted to biological sciences, chemistry, physics and astronomy, mechanical engineering and electrical, computer and biomedical engineering. (Completed summer 2020)
    • The Templeton’s new gift will further enhance instructional and research spaces on campus. Learn more about the gift and its impact.