So Others Might Eat
Many colleges offer students attractive and varied dining options—part of what writer Malcolm Gladwell has called an “amenities arms race.” At the same time, a number of students struggle to afford basic necessities. In a February 2019 op-ed, State University of New York Chancellor Kristina Johnson warned of “a hunger crisis in higher education, a growing problem that demands a collective, proactive, and quick response.” Among other steps, SUNY created a Food Insecurity Task Force and set up food pantries at all 64 campuses. Johnson, an electrical engineer, would likely be encouraged by other proactive solutions that engineering students and faculty around the country have come up with. In our cover story, Lucy Birmingham cites a donation bank for unused meal-plan points, brainchild of a Worcester Polytechnic Institute team, a phone app at the University of California–Davis alerting students to the availability of free food, and, at UCLA, free distribution of leftover food that otherwise would be wasted. Such projects not only are creative but also demonstrate an eagerness to fix societal problems that will benefit us all once these students graduate. (The headline above is actually the name of a Washington D.C. nonprofit that fights poverty and homelessness.)
While other regions of the country offered lucrative tax breaks to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, Northern Virginia’s winning bid stressed higher education—in particular the engineering and computer science graduates the e-commerce giant needs “to build better mousetraps,” in the words of a company official. Plans include Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, George Mason University’s School of Computing, and the University of Virginia’s new School of Data Science, as our feature “Prime Rewards” describes. And they don’t overlook Northern Virginia Community College, which has launched what it hopes will be a seamless two-year to four-year-degree pathway for its students to George Mason.
In a world of ever-taller skyscrapers and climate-friendly LEED certifications, it’s surprising to learn that in some ways, the construction industry is stuck in the 20th century. Concluding that’s the case, Great Britain has launched a $221 million effort to develop a variety of digital technologies aimed at making the sector more productive, cost-efficient, faster, and sustainable. In “New Tools for the Trades,” writer Thomas Grose talks to academics and entrepreneurs involved.
Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find Stephanie Farrell’s final “Letter from the President” and a special section highlighting ASEE’s upcoming Annual Conference, our 126th, in Tampa. We look forward to seeing you there.