Expanding engineering education across the career spectrum
Interim director of new School of Integrated Engineering seeking strong community, industry connections
“It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!” proclaimed a popular U.S. Navy recruiting advertisement more than four decades ago.
That sums up the mindset with which Shawn Jordan is stepping into the role of interim director of the newest school to become part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
At the helm of the School of Integrated Engineering, Jordan’s job won’t involve simply following a course already charted by the seven other Fulton Schools. It will be about breaking new ground.
Jordan is leading the charge to fuse today’s expanding engineering knowledge and practices into a broader spectrum of entrepreneurial and industry pursuits.
His role is to guide the establishment of the new school’s programs designed to prepare students specifically for jobs and careers in evolving high-tech areas such as microelectronics.
That task will also include developing curricula designed to arm students with engineering skills combined with other disciplines to excel in today’s increasingly competitive and demanding technology-based companies.
“What we want to create with this school is an evolutionary enterprise that breaks down traditional disciplinary boundaries,” says Jordan, an associate professor of engineering who for the past 13 years has been a faculty member in The Polytechnic School, part of the Fulton Schools.
Enhancing opportunities in the West Valley
The new school’s focus won’t be strictly on preparing students for conventional technology jobs. It will offer courses exploring the possibilities of adapting engineering skills, principles and practices to contribute to progress in many emerging career areas that could include business operations and management, nursing, fashion and teaching.
“The idea is to create new and forward-looking programs that will produce graduates able to uniquely define themselves as experts and innovators who can bring real value to a variety of business markets and to our overall economic and societal cultures,” Jordan says.
While such aspirations are intended to attract students with the potential to contribute to solutions that could have global impacts, a key mission of the School of Integrated Engineering, headquartered on the ASU West Valley campus, will focus on serving the needs of the Phoenix area’s West Valley communities.
“The West Valley has been historically underserved when it comes to engineering. That’s one of the main reasons ASU wants to help bring engineering there,” Jordan says. “We want to open doors for current and future students who want to study engineering closer to where they live. We want to connect with companies that are already in the area or may want to locate there in the future if many of their workers are living in and vested in the local community.”
Collaborating with local industry
Jordan foresees the new school boosting the overall prominence and impact of the ASU West Valley campus by opening opportunities to establish valuable industry partnerships.
“One of my big aspirations for the school is to establish diverse academic programs that reflect the needs of the community. A big part of doing that effectively requires having very active partnerships with a variety of companies,” he says.
Jordan envisions programs as opportunities for collaboration that do more than provide internships and scholarships for students or provide companies candidates for potential future hires.
Ideally, these productive collaborations will provide starting points for industry-academia enterprises that bring innovation to the melding of business and higher education pursuits, he says.
Such an approach to industry relationships also reflects Jordan’s goal to see the new school teach students not only the technical aspects of engineering but also make them aware of corporate and economic frameworks of the engineering industry, Jordan says.
Building on an expansive career
Jordan’s own career experience encompasses a range of the business, educational, technical and research aspects of the engineering profession.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and a doctoral degree in engineering education from Purdue University.
He collaborates with communities to combine STEM subjects with the arts and culture to create novel products, experiences, and outcomes that meet societal needs. His past and present collaborations integrate STEM with storytelling, fashion, improv, music, theater, dance, and kinetic arts in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design education settings.
Jordan also co-developed a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, or STEAM, Labs program to help middle school and high school students integrate knowledge across disciplines to create unique solutions to various STEAM-related problems.
He has been the principal investigator for projects funded by the National Science Foundation related to design, including several NSF -funded projects that studied the intersections of engineering design and Dine’, or Navajo, culture, and worked for a season on the Public Broadcasting Systems engineering design reality TV show “Design Squad.”
He has also won numerous engineering research and teaching awards for his research and teaching in engineering education, including a prestigious NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers award for his work with Navajo youth.
Jordan is especially qualified to help lead the Fulton Schools in its ambitious efforts to expand academic and research endeavors, says Professor Kyle Squires, ASU’s senior vice provost of engineering, computing and technology and dean of the Fulton Schools of Engineering.
“A key goal for the academic programs is attracting students to engineering who otherwise may not choose one of our majors. The broad strategy is to combine engineering in novel ways with other disciplines, which will require new approaches to the designs of degree programs and curricula. All of this has already been a sharp focus of both Shawn’s teaching and research interests,” Squires says.
Squires especially notes Jordan’s collaborations with various communities to conduct use-inspired research fusing STEM subjects with arts and cultures, which has resulted in the creation of novel products, experiences and outcomes that meet important societal needs.
Alan Cheville, a Bucknell University professor of electrical, computing and energy engineering, has collaborated successfully with Jordan on work with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments Heads Association related to the Maker Movement, which encourages people to become creators of products and services rather than merely using them.
“I know Shawn also does a lot of cool stuff in the courses he teaches,” Cheville says. “He is also especially well-organized, and detail focused. So, I think he will be really good as a school director.”
“Shawn’s passion and talent for developing and implementing innovative, engaging, and student-centered curricula is clear,” McKenna says. “He has the unique ability to combine technical expertise with an open-ended, user-centered design approach, which enables students to creatively apply their engineering content knowledge to developing realistic, usable solutions,” she says.
McKenna points to Jordan’s creativity in exploring novel approaches such as storytelling and improv as a way for students to communicate effectively about the impact of their work.
“He has also worked extensively with the Navajo Nation in designing culturally relevant engineering pedagogy and has led several teacher training workshops to enable broad dissemination of his curricular materials,” McKenna says. “Shawn is a true engineering education innovator and it’s fitting he will serve in a leadership role in the newest of the Fulton Schools.”