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Grand Challenge News: Faculty Success Story

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Pedro Arce Promotes “New Type of Engineer”

Arce Graphic Rural Reimagined congratulates Dr. Pedro Arce, faculty in TN Tech’s Chemical Engineering Department, for promoting the development of the “New Type of Engineer:” Holistic, Innovative, Social, Impactful, and with an Entrepreneurial Mindset. Dr. Arce has dedicated the bulk of his career to identifying the best practices, models, and guidelines to assist in transforming the traditional engineering curriculum with the goal of forming new facilitators of learning, effectively leading to the new type of engineer. His efforts are guided and inspired by several key educational pillars, including leading national organizations like the National Academy of Nursing, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Arce’s view is that without a proper learning system for the transformation of traditional curriculum, there is no effective educational strategy to form a new type of engineering professional. Specifically, the development of a new professional within engineering education can be a complex and multidisciplinary task. Accordingly, many factors and experiences have guided Dr. Arce in his efforts to promote the development of the new type of engineer. Through his experience coaching soccer, Dr. Arce realized that the lack of a system in place hinders any potential and efficient way to educate players in learning new styles of gameplay. Similarly, in engineering education, any potential formation of a new type of engineering professional can be hindered by the lack of a proper system for transforming traditional curriculum. Therefore, his promotion of the “New Type of Engineer,” one who is holistic, innovative, social, impactful, and with an entrepreneurial mindset, acts as a gateway for guiding this transformation to occur. 

One way that Dr. Arce has worked to transform the “traditional” engineering professional is through his interdisciplinary and collaborative-developed Renaissance Foundry Model, “The Foundry,” in which he has worked diligently, together with numerous colleagues across disciplines, to educate his students within the modern pedagogical learning approaches integrating an entrepreneurial engineering mindset. The Foundry is a learning system approach that integrates six elements into two learning paradigms: The Knowledge Acquisition, and the Knowledge Transfer. The Foundry begins with challenge identification (element 1) and ends with developing a Prototype of Innovative Technology, or a PIT (element 6), and subsequently alternates its approach between the two paradigms. This model has and continues to be based on the effective formation and use of student teams to facilitate learning, which guides the transformational efforts in curriculum and other related aspects to support the development of the new kind of engineer. 

Recent scholarly research indicates that a new and innovation-centered way of learning can truly only be efficient through collaborative effort, which Dr. Arce advocates strongly for. He underscores the importance of a collaborative effort, “Collaboration is key to achieve the new type of engineer.” Accordingly, his efforts in developing the new kind of engineer have involved colleagues from the College of Engineering, College of Business, the College of Education, and the School of Nursing. In addition, Dr. Arce has coordinated with partners such as the Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge, Eagle Works, the Oakley STEM Center, and other academic units in outreach events for impacting students from all areas where Tech has a focused influence. These efforts have been supported by several university, state, and national programs including the Tech QEP program for inquiry guided learning and the faculty grant program from the Tech Office of Research; the Student, Engagement, Retention, and Services (SERS) program from TBR; and the faculty grant program from the VentureWell Foundation. Dr. Arce favors the involvement of colleagues, at the border of all disciplines, to advance “holistic” practices needed for developing the new professional. He states, “I always enjoy working in collaborative teams, as I believe that diversity of ideas and inclusivity of views are more impactful and innovative for the solution of our societal challenges.” The Foundry itself is based on the effective formation and use of student teams working together, which represents a practical and rewarding form of student collaboration that prepares them well for their future immersion to identify societal challenges and propose PIT for their solutions. 

Dr. Arce’s efforts have been focused on improving, implementing, and assessing the Foundry across the Chemical Engineering curriculum and the service learning sectors, with the goal of guiding the development of the new kind of engineering professional. He and his colleagues from the Renaissance Research Group have promoted the potential educational benefits of this new model trough talks in educational meetings and numerous workshops sponsored by the American Society of Engineering Education, the National Science Foundation, and Purdue University, among others.  Also, his efforts have focused on sharing the model with K-12 educators through workshops sponsored by the Tennessee Education Association and assisting after class program at a middle school in Putman County.  Based on these activities, Dr. Arce is excited about the future of The Foundry and committed to help the College of Engineering and other Tech units via interdisciplinary efforts to develop new educational programs both at the undergraduate and graduate levels that continue the integration of the Foundry model. Ultimately, his dream is to see the new type of engineer (and other STEM) professionals seamlessly integrated across the educational curricula. Dr. Arce believes that this should be the hallmark of technologically infused universities such as Tech. 

The Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge congratulates his effort, along with the College of Engineering, to develop interest in offering various opportunities for students to grow through entrepreneurial mindset programs within both the university sector and surrounding rural areas. Dr. Arce states, “Students participating in these programs will appreciate the fabric of an ecosystem that supports the development of skills centered on the formation of the new type of engineer professional.” Wings up!

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