Winds of Change
Over Mark Matthews’s nine-year leadership as Prism editor, the magazine garnered numerous awards for writing, design, and overall excellence. But his tenure was equally distinguished by Mark’s calm direction, steady hand, and kindness—some of which I got to experience in our brief overlap before I took over the role. I know he will be missed by many in his retirement.
These are challenging times. As our country reels from COVID-19 and reckons with systemic racism, as educational institutions debate whether to open or remain closed, and as we all figure out how to come together while physically apart, Prism is here to help you navigate.
As I write this in mid-August, colleges and universities continue to revise their strategies. Some that planned for in-person learning are now opting for online instruction, an especially difficult transition in a field such as engineering with its emphasis on hands-on projects, labs, and capstone design. In our cover feature, Tom Grose examines some of the solutions that engineering educators employed in the spring with characteristic ingenuity. We hope these ideas—from computer simulations to cigar-box guitar kits—help spark thinking for the fall and beyond. ASEE’s Resource Central is also full of ideas to assist you (https://resources.asee.org).
ASEE’s new President, Sheryl Sorby, has experience in the alchemy of adversity, as Pierre-Home Douglas describes in his profile. Told to drop out of engineering as an undergraduate, she persisted and earned an A in the course. Having struggled with spatial visualization skills herself, she found her passion helping others improve theirs. Now she’s focusing her energy on transforming the engineering curriculum. Her inaugural President’s Letter distills her powerful call to action at ASEE’s Virtual Conference in June. The critical changes, she urges, start with us.
George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in May sparked worldwide protests and calls for systemic change to address this country’s long-festering racial injustices. In her Last Word, engineering educator Brooke Coley shares experiences of hypervisibility and invisibility for Black faculty and the larger implications. Faculty, staff, and students must “understand the ways power and privilege are perpetuated in the academy,” she writes; institutions must also be held accountable for efforts to increase inclusion and equity.
Throughout ASEE’s Virtual Conference, sessions highlighted issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These issues will continue to resonate Society-wide—including in the pages of Prism. You’ll also note a style change: Following the recommendations of the National Association of Black Journalists and the American Psychological Association’s guidelines on bias-free language, we’ve begun capitalizing both Black and White when used to describe a person’s race. (This Washington Post opinion piece, https://wapo.st/2DUDTt1, provides persuasive rationales.)
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as Prism’s editor, and thank you for reading. Stay safe, and be well.