Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education

2022 Gordon Prize Acceptance Remarks

Acceptance Remarks by Dr. Thomas C. Katsouleas

I suppose it is almost obligatory, this close to Hollywood, to begin with “I would like to thank the Academy….” But seriously, on behalf of my colleagues Rick Miller, Yannis Yortsos, and Jenna Carpenter, I would like to thank Dr. Dianne Chong and the prize selection committee, and I would especially like to thank Bernard Gordon for his generous gift to establish this prize as one of the premier education prizes in the world. In so doing he uplifts the efforts of all of us who are engaged in the enhancement of engineering education.

Thank you, President Folt and USC, for hosting this lovely ceremony.

President Folt, President Anderson, NAE Executive Director Al Romig, distinguished guests, friends, and family, thank you for being here to celebrate this wonderful honor.

There are so many to thank! I will mention a few. First, Prof. Iraj Ershaghi for the time and effort we all know it takes to assemble a strong nomination; Amy Trowbridge and your dedicated team who run the community-based GCSP Network; the Advisory Council, represented tonight by Al Romig and Andrew Mang; the talented leaders of the original implementation of the GCSP, including Louise Yates, who is here, Monty Reichert and Martha Absher at Duke, and Lynn Stein at Olin College; and two former NAE staff members: BL Ramakrishna, who stewarded the program well, and Randy Atkins, who, with NAE president Wulf, first conceived of the Grand Challenges as a way to communicate the importance of engineering.

The history of the GCSP is an LA story. The original “three amigos,” Rick and Yannis and I, got to know each other as a result of working together here at USC. Our amiga Jenna was also working in an LA, but in her case it was Louisiana. This partnership has been one of the greatest pleasures of my professional life.

When the NAE came out in 2008 with its list of Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century, we amigos saw this less as a list than a call to action. It prompted us to ask the fateful question: If this is where engineering is going in the 21st century, are we preparing our students for it? Or is there something more they need?

From that the Grand Challenges Scholars Program was born. It received a big boost along the way from NAE presidents Chuck Vest and Dan Mote, and the biggest boost of all from the White House when Tom Khalil and President Obama offered to host us if we could get 50 deans to sign on. More than 120 did.

From there, it took off and I would say the future of the GCSP Network is now even brighter. We are on track to graduate over 300 GC scholars this year from 68 institutions. We are expanding the focus of the GCSP beyond the original NAE Grand Challenges, to include, for example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and even such vexing challenges as engineering for world peace.

And we are building on our foundational partnership with the NAE, adding organizations such as the American Society for Engineering Education and National Society of Black Engineers, as well as leaders of industry.

Graduates of the program—as of this month there are over 2000 of them—have taken it on themselves to organize an alumni network and were instrumental in sparking, for example, the NAE’s national Covid-19 Call for Engineering Action.

With its growing community-based network, the GCSP is a pathway for capturing the imagination of diverse and talented students and also empowering them to contribute to global solutions, today and in the future.

Thank you again on behalf of the four of us for this tremendous honor!