WFU Engineering Awarded $700K+ to Advance New Model for Engineering Education: Character Education and Entrepreneurial Mindset

(Author: Adela Morales-Santana)

With the support of the Kern Family Foundation, the Wake Forest University Department of Engineering has received an award to elevate the importance of ethical decision making (via character education) and an entrepreneurial mindset.  Virtues like curiosity, creativity, perseverance, courage, teamwork, service, intellectual humility, and practical wisdom are of key focus in its undergraduate engineering program. An entrepreneurial mindset to enrich the innate problem solving competencies of engineers is also a focus. 

Since 2019, the Kern Family Foundation has awarded more than $700,000- including a recent two-year grant of $557,140- to support Wake Forest’s pioneering vision for the future of engineering education. The new two-year grant brings together faculty in the Department of Engineering and Program for Leadership and Character to teach a new generation of engineers to lead with virtue and create value for the clients and communities they serve. Afterall, this is linked to a liberal arts engineering education and Pro Humanitate.

The Kern Family Foundation’s support has made the following possible, reflecting an interdisciplinary approach:

  • Hiring two post-doctoral fellows, philosopher Joe Wiinikka-Lydon and engineering education researcher Adetoun Yeaman to support the project;
  • Developing learning modules that enrich entrepreneurial mindset and character development;
  • Providing professional development for all engineering faculty;
  • Sharing and disseminating knowledge beyond Wake Forest;
  • Forming an external advisory board that includes renowned engineers, philosophers, historians and educational researchers; and
  • Enriching the national conversation and participating in a conference on character in the professions that Wake Forest is convening March 18-20, 2021

“We are grateful to the Kern Family Foundation’s continued support of Wake Forest’s vision for reimagining engineering education, as well as our institutional focus on educating students who continually demonstrate moral leadership, commitment and purpose,” said Dr. Olga Pierrakos, Founding Chair and Professor, Department of Engineering. Pierrakos leads the project as principal investigator (PI) and works closely with Dr. Michael Lamb (Co-PI), Executive Director of the Program for Leadership and Character, Dr. Michael Gross (Co-PI), Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering, and all the engineering faculty. 

Wake Forest engineering students present the results of their research projects

Wake Forest engineering students present the results of their research projects to Dr. Olga Pierrakos and to their community partners from local agencies, at Wake Downtown on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.

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