Our History

The Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies and Multidisciplinary Engineering programs reside within the School of Engineering Education.  The Department of Engineering Education was formed in 2004 and recognized as a School in 2008, as an innovative merger between two well-established Purdue programs. 

The two programs, the Department of Freshman Engineering (now called First-Year Engineering) and the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies, became the basis to shape an informed ecosystem of excellence in undergraduate engineering instruction, based on scholarly research and inquiry within the emergent field of Engineering Education.  In addition to the two undergraduate programs, the School of Engineering Education offers a PhD program.

As a matter of our deep historic roots, Freshman Engineering was established in 1953 as a first in its time.  Its aim was to distinctively educate an entire cohort of Purdue’s incoming engineering students, providing them with a uniform and solid foundation on which to choose and build their disciplinary education. 

Likewise, in 1969, Purdue boldly set out to serve an emergent and unique body of students with STEM hearts and a wide ranging view of how and where the skills, values, and attributes of an engineer could be put to use.  This group was then the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDES), and in the words of our program founder, Dr. Dick Grace, the program was created “… in response to student faculty, and industrial needs for engineers more broadly educated than ever before.”

In 2003, Dr. Phil Wankat, then Director of the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies, went about re-envisioning how to best serve two distinct pathways that students were found to be gravitating toward. The first path, was for students who wanted an engineering education background, but aspired to take that background into pre-professional schools such as pre-med or pre-law, or perhaps did not ultimately desire to practice engineering, but valued the engineering foundation in their education. These students were well-served by the existing program, which is now the Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDES) program within the School of Engineering Education that confers a Bachelor of Science degree (BS). 

Drs, Wankat, Pilotte, and Grace

The second pathway was for students with a clear interest in the profession of engineering, and perhaps even an interest in becoming a registered professional engineer. Because most states require that candidates who desire to become professional engineers graduate from an ABET accredited program, these students would be best served by an ABET accredited program. In order to be eligible for ABET accreditation IDES was merged with Freshmen Engineering and became part of Engineering Education in 2004. The new Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE) program was developed from 2004 to 2005, the first student graduated in 2006, and the program was accredited by ABET in 2007. The MDE program confers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree. 

Picture: Drs. Phil Wankat, Mary Pilotte, and Dick Grace (circa 2015)