Harvard will establish a new concentration combining the study of technology and society in the six-month-old School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), University President Drew G. Faust said at a question-and-answer session with junior parents on Friday.
Responding to a question about how the University was working to improve its engineering program—for many years an afterthought at Harvard—Faust said that a potential concentrator “would develop capacities both in engineering but will also understand a wider range of ways in which technology can affect society.”
The announcement comes as the School’s founding dean, Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, prepares to step down after a decade of leading Harvard’s engineering programs.
Venky said he was excited about the concentration in an interview yesterday, but cautioned that he and a faculty committee are “still in the early stages of planning.” The new concentration—likely to draw on the faculties of Harvard’s professional schools—will not be put through the approval process until the fall semester, he said.
Venky said that the change would add a particularly relevant line of study to the engineering school.
“I feel strongly that scientists and engineers have to know a little more broadly about public policy issues,” he said. “I feel it is a very appropriate thing for Harvard to do.”
Faust said Harvard is committed to expanding opportunities in engineering with an aim toward making a school that trains “renaissance engineers,” rather than attempting to mimic the school at the other end of Mass. Ave.
“We will never have the size engineering school that MIT does,” Faust said, “but we see real opportunities for what an engineering school can be in the midst of a liberal arts university.”
The SEAS currently comprises three concentrations—engineering sciences, applied math, and computer science—that presently enroll 310 undergraduates, according to the Harvard College Facebook.
The move is the latest example of an increasing University focus on connections between disciplines, a theme that has led to the development of cross-campus planning committees in science and bioengineering.
“Partly what it means to be a school of engineering is to increase our strength in areas where we have not invested before,” Faust said. “For example, bioengineering, an exciting new field that represents the growing connections between engineering and the life sciences which is something that we are broadly interested in.”
Venky said that requirements for the concentration are still under discussion and that several new courses would likely be created to make the new field of study more “coherent.”
“Stay tuned for the details,” he said.
—Staff writer Clifford M. Marks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Nathan C. Strauss can be reached at email@example.com.
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