KEEN Member Institution

Wake Forest University is proud to be a Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN) institutional partner. This partnership of more than 50 colleges and universities across the country has a core mission of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in all engineering students “so they can create personal, economic, and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work.” 

KEEN represents engineering education leadership and a community of practice committed to pushing the boundaries of education in a manner that is systematic, sustainable, and shareable. At Wake Forest, we are committed to not only pushing the boundaries of engineering education but accelerating positive change for the benefit of our students, who represent the next generation of engineering leaders. The character strengths that our students cultivate while completing their degrees are key facets to achieving our success as one of the newest engineering programs in the nation.

What is Character Education?

“Character is a set of stable, deep, enduring dispositions that define who we are and shape how we characteristically think, feel, and act” (Lamb, Brant, and Brooks 2021). Character strengths are the habits that predispose us to think, feel, or act at the right times, about the right things, toward the right people, for the right end, and in the right way.

In the engineering profession, we hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior, because the public demands this of us. In Wake Engineering, character education is an intentional element of the curriculum that fosters our students’ growth into fearless problem solvers who also embody the character strengths that comprise the engineering profession.

Intentional Curriculum Design

Of the many strengths of character that exist, our program has chosen to focus on a select set because of their intrinsic relationship to the engineering profession. These include:

  • Authenticity
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Intellectual humility
  • Justice
  • Practical Wisdom
  • Purpose
  • Resilience
  • Service 
  • Teamwork
  • Zest

To reinforce the ability of our students to develop their own strengths in these important dimensions of character, we have structured our curriculum to create explicit opportunities in specific courses for students to mindfully cultivate, practice, reflect, and grow. 

Below are a few character-guided curricular examples. For additional resources developed by our faculty and in relation to this work, please visit Wake Forest’s member institution page on the KEEN website or contact project leads: Dr. Olga Pierrakos (, Dr. Jessica Koehler (, and Dr. Kyle Luthy (

EGR 111 – Intro. to Engineering Design – Purpose, Curiosity, & Creativity

This first-year course facilitates students’ exploration of (a) the engineering design process through projects and design activities, (b) the engineering profession and its role in society, and (c) one’s personal and professional purpose, values, and goals. Purpose, curiosity, and creativity are at the core of this course. Design projects and design activities are interwoven with guest lectures to bring professional practice to life using historical and modern exemplars of character. 

Contributing Faculty – Professors Melissa Kenny, Monique O’Connell, Kyle Luthy, Olga Pierrakos

EGR 112 – Intro. to Engineering Experimentation – Teamwork, Service, & Justice 

This first-year course introduces students to experimentation tools and processes as well as analytical methods and approaches to understand modern engineering practice. Through community-engaged project work, this course emphasizes teamwork, service, and justice. Small teams of students are coached to work on two stakeholder-informed projects. The intensity of group work enables students to see the connections and power of collaboration from the lens of character development of individual students and the team. Service to the community is embodied with opportunities to bring social and environmental justice to the surface. 

Contributing Faculty – Professors Kyana Young, Kyle Luthy, Mike Gross, and Courtney Di Vittorio

EGR 211 – Materials and Mechanics – Humility, Purpose, and Honesty 

This second-year course integrates behavior of materials with mechanics (statics and dynamics) using hands-on demonstrations and labs. Ethical case studies integrated throughout the course bring to the surface the importance of purpose, honesty, and intellectual humility in the practice of engineering. 

Contributing Faculty – Professors Nick Lutzweiler, Tricia Clayton, and Adetoun Yeaman 

EGR 212 – Transport Phenomena – Resilience, Empathy, and Courage 

This second-year course integrates thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer using a mastery based learning approach that promotes grit, resilience, and mastery. Hands-on labs enable the theoretical knowledge to come to life as does team-based technical lab presentations and technical lab reports. Empathy and courage are promoted via a collaborative approach of sharing and soliciting constructive feedback on experimental lab results. 

Contributing Faculty – Professors Saami Yazdani, Adetoun Yeaman, Kyana Young, Olga Pierrakos 

EGR 311 – Controls and Instrumentation – Curiosity, Creativity, & Zest 

This third-year course integrates virtues through hands-on labs and projects within every session to enable students to see the connections between theory and practice using instrumentation, sensors, and other electronic equipment. Students synthesize these lessons in a culminating project through which they create a product to address a self-identified real-world problem. Curiosity, creativity, and zest are promoted via a trial and error investigative approach to learning, projects that students choose to tackle, promoting continuous improvement creatively through iteration, and working daily with partners.

Contributing Faculty – Professors Kyle Luthy, Erin Henslee, Will Crowe

EGR 312 – Computational Modeling – Critical Thinking & Practical Wisdom 

This third-year course integrates mathematical and computational modeling via use of software tools to showcase the importance of computational work in the practice of engineering. Critical thinking is enabled by expecting students to leverage knowledge from previous engineering, math, and science courses. Practical Wisdom is facilitated via the use of real-world case studies, group discussions, and deep reflection. 

Contributing Faculty – Professors Lauren Lowman, Courtney Di Vittorio, and Erin Henslee

We are also grateful to visiting and part-time engineering faculty who have supported the entrepreneurial and character development work within our curriculum. Professors Nick Lutzweiler, Carlos Kengla, Kevin Grove, Justin Gage, Hunter Bachman, and Paul Allaire.

Culminating Experience (Capstone)

It’s no secret that, in the professional world, many of the young engineers graduating today will ultimately be faced with the most complex problems that society has ever seen. To effectively prepare our Wake Engineering students to tackle these challenges, we have designed a year-long, team-driven immersive engineering design experience that bring community stakeholders, beneficiaries of design solutions, as well as faculty and industry coaches to imagine novel solutions to better society. Entrepreneurial solutions along with leadership and character development work are at the core of this experience. 

Faculty leaders in the design of our students’ capstone experience include Professors Olga Pierrakos, Will Crowe, Mike Gross, and Hunter Bachman, and social scientist and Visiting Professor Jesse Pappas. All virtues come to life within capstone design at Wake Engineering, and all engineering faculty play a role and contribute to capstone design project work.

Highlights of Our KEEN Activities