[Published originally in the November 2004 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 16/No. 5]
ECEDHA News and Activities
By Kenneth Jenkins, Stephen Goodnick, and Kenneth Connor
We would like to begin this article by providing some history of the organization currently known as ECEDHA.
In 1963, at the ASEE Annual meeting, the department heads of Electrical Engineering Departments in the United States began to organize, and the organization that grew out of these efforts soon became known as the Electrical Engineering Department Heads Association (EEDHA). EEDHA’s purpose was to serve as an advisory group on accreditation and to the IEEE Professional Group on Education. It also provided an independent forum for members to discuss mutual problems, and facilitated the dissemination of educational methods and materials. EEDHA’s early meetings were held at the annual ASEE and FIE meetings.
In 1981, EEDHA became independent of ASEE and IEEE. Aided by a grant from NSF, EEDHA reorganized on a national level in 1984 and held its first National EEDHA (NEEDHA) meeting in Hilton Head, SC. In 1986, the International Engineering Consortium (IEC) took over the “management” of NEEDHA.
In 2001, NEEDHA changed its name to recognize the emergence of computer engineering curricula among its member institutions, becoming the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA). Its mission is formally stated in the organization’s constitution (see Box 1).
ECEDHA expanded further in 2003 when the Canadian Heads of Electrical and Computer Engineering (CHECE) were invited as full members of ECEDHA after passage of a constitutional amendment. In December 2003, the ECEDHA membership totaled 286, with members from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and South America. The member institutions supported 339 total accredited programs, representing 85 percent of the total ECE programs in these countries.
ECEDHA maintains a Web site (www.ecedha.org), supports a job posting list server (firstname.lastname@example.org), and publishes an Annual Departmental Survey and an Annual ECEDHA Newsletter. At its annual national meetings, ECEDHA sponsors an ABET Workshop and a New Chairs Workshop. ECEDHA also sponsors an annual awards program, with awards presented in the categories of Service, Innovative Programs, and Accreditation Advocacy.
ECEDHA’s key activities for 2003 included organizing a Special Issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education: Vision for ECE Education in 2013 and Beyond (Vol. 45, No. 4, Nov. 2003); organizing an NSF/ECEDHA/IEC Nano-Engineering Education Workshop in January, 2003; and co-organizing with NSF an NSF/ECEDHA Agents of Change Workshop: Achieving Diversity in Electrical and Computer Engineering Research and Education in June, 2003. Reports from these workshops are available on the ECEDHA Web site.
2004 Annual Meeting
The 2004 ECEDHA Annual Meeting was held in Orlando, Florida, March 16-22, 2004. The meeting was well attended with more than 180 chairs and heads present. Sessions were devoted to varied topics of interest to heads of ECE departments, including future research directions, diversity in ECE programs, ABET and undergraduate education issues, public policy, and engineering education research. Dr. William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering, presented the keynote talk entitled “Thoughts on the Globalization of Engineering and Its Implications for Engineering Education.” This issue is currently at the forefront of public discussion (particularly during this election year), and Dr. Wulf’s insights on these issues stimulated a great deal of discussion throughout the 2004 annual meeting. Electrical and Computer Engineering are fields that are heavily impacted by the global economy in areas such as software, electronics manufacturing, and electronic design.
Globalization and the Engineering Workforce
As a result of the intense interest in public policy and engineering outsourcing abroad that was stimulated during the 2004 annual meeting, the ECEDHA Board of Directors has initiated an effort to organize a workshop on this topic. Plans are currently being developed to hold the workshop in the Washington, D. C. area in spring 2005. It is hoped that this workshop will stimulate further debate on outsourcing and globalization, in light of the lack of hard data concerning the impact of this evolution on engineering jobs in the United States. It seems that much recent discussion has been shaped by anecdotal evidence as opposed to aggregate statistics. It was somewhat surprising to learn of May 2004 labor statistics that claimed to show only a minor portion (less than 5%) of job losses in the workforce as being identifiable with outsourcing. One wonders if such statistics truly account for the large growth of offshore facilities, and associated obsolescence of older US-based facilities, as opposed to simply measuring direct loss of individual jobs due to outsourcing.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a growing need to educate engineering students for competitive careers in a global economy. Educators will face the challenge of recruiting students into ECE programs in the face of the negative publicity of outsourcing, and the perceived undercutting of the value of an engineering degree in the United States due to global competition. Another challenge is the retraining of engineering professionals in fields that have suffered from excessive outsourcing. Addressing this challenge requires a new emphasis on continuing education in providing opportunities for engineers at all career levels to refresh and change the direction of their evolving careers.
Preview of the 2005 Annual ECEDHA Meeting
The 2005 annual ECEDHA meeting will be held in New Orleans, March 18–22, 2005. The primary technical focus of the 2005 annual meeting will be on the future development of “Biotechnology and the Electrical/Computer Engineer.” The 2005 technical program will include panel discussions and specially organized sessions to address what needs to be done to prepare Electrical and Computer Engineering graduates for careers in the biosciences and bioengineering fields. Public policy, globalization, and the offshoring of engineering jobs will be addressed as well. Additional topics that will be highlighted at the next annual meeting include cyber security, collaborations between engineering and fine arts, the role of educational research, and best practices in the recruitment and retention of minorities and women in the Electrical and Computer Engineering profession.
New Relationships between ECEDHA and Canadian ECE Departments
During the past year, a constitutional amendment was approved by a vote of the ECEDHA membership that extends full membership privileges to accredited EE/ECE/EECS Departments at Canadian institutions. Prior to the passage of this amendment, ECEDHA membership was open to Canadian departments, but when they joined ECEDHA they were granted Affiliate Membership status even though they paid the same membership fees as US institutions. The Affiliate Membership status limited the ability of the Canadian Departments to vote in ECEDHA elections and to fully participate in certain other ECEDHA activities. Under the new constitutional amendment, Canadian Departments are granted full membership status upon payment of normal annual membership fees. Furthermore, unaccredited Canadian institutions can also join ECEDHA as Affiliate Members under the same rules and regulations extended to unaccredited U.S. institutions.
Recent Interactions between ECEDHA and CRA on Public Policy Matters
At the recent CRA meeting at Snowbird, ECEDHA attendees (including two ECEDHA board members, Bob Janowiak and Ken Connor) took the opportunity to explore how ECEDHA and CRA can work together more closely in the area of public policy. As a result, CRA has invited Dr. Wayne Bennett, who currently serves on the ECEDHA Board of Directors, to become a member of the CRA Public Policy Committee as an ECEDHA representative. CRA has also expressed interest in developing a stronger relationship with IEC in the interest of strengthening their relationships with the computer/IT industry.
Kenneth Jenkins (jenkins [at] engr.psu.edu) is ECEDHA’s President; Stephen Goodnick (stephen.goodnick [at] asu.edu), ECEDHA’s Past-President; and Kenneth Connor (connor [at] rpi.edu), ECEDHA’s Vice President.
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