Skip navigation

ENE Memo: March 16, 2015

From the Head: 3/16

Building Resilience in a Complex Ecosystem

Last week, I participated in a meeting in Washington, DC, of thought leaders in engineering education. We explored ways to do a better job of communicating the significance and the impact of engineering education research to a diverse range of audiences. We used the metaphor of an ecosystem to imagine the complex set of relationships that exist between engineering education and various groups in the broader community. For example, our relationship to the higher education sector and with K-12 education. We considered the information flows that occur between it and the various groups. Likewise, we considered the interconnections and relationships engineering education has with industry, with professional societies, with state and federal governments, with research funding agencies, with philanthropic foundations and others. We are talking about an enormous ecosystem with a myriad of cross connections and relationships.

Closer to home, within an individual higher education institution there is a complex set of relationships around educational research, it's translation to improve practices and how this is understood by different people. This "local" part of the ecosystem includes the upper administration and institutional policies, college structures and practices, departmental history and culture, and the individual stories of faculty, staff and students.

So what you ask?

Each of us is an "actor" in this complex engineering education ecosystem. We each play an important role. Significantly our efforts depend upon the outputs of many others in this ecosystem. Conversely our efforts impact many others across the ecosystem, sometimes in ways we do not fully understand or appreciate. However, we tend to operate in relative isolation – in our corner of the ecosystem without considering all the interconnections and the ways the things we do have ripples across the system. In our day to day work we tend to rely primarily upon information and knowledge about those parts of the system immediately adjacent to us; the parts with which we interact directly.

As members of a complex ecosystem we are extremely vulnerable to change. A small change relatively remote from us in the system can have a disproportionately large impact on our work. Such changes are very difficult to predict. The proverbial butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and a tsunami hits Asia. Trying to understand, let alone manage, the whole system is an impossible task. However, we can increase our resilience to possible unexpected changes if we increase our knowledge of those who are once or even twice removed from us in the vast network of connections that is the engineering education ecosystem. These are not the people we deal with directly, but those who in turn have a relationship with our direct connections. For example, the instructors who teach sophomore, junior and senior classes for the students we taught in the first year program. The people who employ our graduates in their second or third job, not their first position out of college.

Likewise, we can benefit from having a more nuanced appreciation of the thinking of those people once or twice removed from us, but who influence what we work on directly. Examples include K-12 teachers, the extended families of our students, member of the upper administration of the university, policymakers in government and funding agencies, program managers in foundations and the staff in accrediting bodies. Similarly with these in the parts of the system that help shape those with whom we work. Examples include the K-12 system in general, in this state or in other countries, or the characteristics of a particular school district all of which influence the formation of our students.

Yes, there is never enough time to do all this. Yes, we are not measured or rewarded directly for doing this work. Nevertheless, I believe that if we paid more attention to our second cousins (so to speak) in the ecosystem we may be able to create practices that are more resilient to unexpected changes in the system. It comes down to finding effective ways to listen to and communicate with those once or twice removed from us in the system.

Just a thought.


Calendar: 3/16

Spring 2015

  • March 16: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • March 16-20: Spring Break
  • March 23: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • March 26: Research Seminar, ARMS B071, 3:30-4:20pm
  • March 27: Staff Meeting, ARMS 1028, 9:30-11:20am
  • March 30: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • March 31: INSPIRE Seminar, Wang 3501, 2-3pm
  • April 1: Faculty Meeting, Wang 3501, 9:30-11:20am
  • April 2: Research Seminar, ARMS B071, 3:30-4:20pm
  • April 6: Librarian Office Hours, ARMS 1314, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • April 8-14: Research WeekCelebrating the ENE Research Facility in Wang Hall
  • April 9: Research Seminar, Wang Hall/TBD, 3:30-4:20pm
  • April 9: College of Engineering Advisory Council dinner, Wang Hall, TBD
  • April 13: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • April 13/14:ENE Industrial Advisory Council meeting, Wang Hall, 8am-3:30pm
  • April 10: College of Engineering Faculty Awards of Excellence Dinner, TBD  
  • April 16: ENE GSA Town Hall, ARMS B071, 3:30-4:20pm
  • April 20: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • April 22: Faculty Meeting, Wang 3501, 9:30-11:20am
  • April 23: Research Seminar, ARMS B071, 3:30-4:20pm
  • April 27: Librarian Office Hours, Wang 3500, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • April 28: INSPIRE Seminar, Wang 3501, 2-3pm
  • April 30: Research Seminar, ARMS B071, 3:30-4:20pm
  • May 1: ENE Best Teacher and McDowell Best Advisor Awards 2015, ARMS 1300, 11am  
  • May 1: Classes End
  • May 4: Librarian Office Hours, ARMS 1314, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • May 6: Faculty Meeting, Wang 3501, 9:30-11:20am
  • May 13-14: ENE Strategic Advance, Wang Hall, 9:30-11:20am
  • May 16: ENE Graduation Celebration, Wang Hall, 11am (Commencement, Elliot Hall, 2pm)

News and Information: 3/16

Director of Communications

Mike Loizzo will be leaving his role as ENE's director of communication in June. He and his family are relocating to Lincoln, Neb., so his wife can join the faculty of the University of Nebraska. Mike's last day in his current role will be June 17, following the ASEE annual conference.

Tornado Drill

As part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, Purdue will be conducting a campus-wide tornado drill on Thursday, March 19, at 10:15am. During this drill, you can expect ECN supported machines with Alertus to “take over” the screen with details on the drill. More details are available at the link below.

While this is only a voluntary drill, it is a good time to review the ENE severe weather shelter-in-place procedures, and the ENE emergency response procedures as a whole. Severe weather shelter-in-place procedures for ENE are as follows:

  • ARMS: The severe weather shelter-in-place locations for ARMS are located in the basement. ARMS B061, B071, and the lower portion of 1010 are designated locations, but in practice, any location in the basement away from glass is sufficient.
  • WANG: The severe weather shelter-in-place locations for WANG are all located on the first floor away from windows. These are primarily the first floor stairwell, restrooms, and janitor areas. An alternate shelter-in-place location is the tunnel underneath the Northwestern Parking Garage. This location should only be used if it is safe to briefly travel outdoors.

As always, if you have any questions/concerns, please feel free to contact Patrick La Petina, 4-1503 or

Kudos: 3/16 Stephen Hoffmann on receiving the first ENE Award for Leadership, which will be presented in April. Alice Pawley on receiving the first ENE Award for Excellence in Mentoring, which will be presented in April. Ryan SenkpeilJulian Archer and Shreyas Vathul Subramanian on receiving the Estus H. and Vashti L. Magoon award for outstanding graduate teaching assistants and instructors, excellence in teaching. Beyond the prestige and recognition of this award, it is accompanied with a $2,000 prize and will be presented at an April 15 luncheon.

Funding Opportunities: 3/16

Selected Funding Opportunities:

NSF Cybersecurity Innovation for Cyberinfrastructure (CICI) The objective of the CICI program is to develop and deploy security solutions that benefit the scientific community by ensuring the integrity and reliability of the end-to-end scientific workflow. This solicitation seeks unique ways to protect scientific instruments, resources, cyberinfrastructure and data that extend beyond building better perimeters and point solutions. Deadline: June 2

NSF Dear Colleague Letter: I-Corps L – Stimulating Innovation in STEM Education  To challenge NSF researchers to think beyond their research results and toward broader adoption of STEM education and learning innovations, NSF's Innovation Corps Teams Program (I-Corps Teams) will encourage proposals that take discoveries and promising practices from education research and development and promote opportunities for widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization. I-Corps for Learning (I-Corps L) Teams will receive support - in the form of mentoring and funding - to accelerate innovation in learning that can be successfully scaled, in a sustainable manner. Deadline: April 15

USAID/World Vision All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development  This challenge aims to catalyze the creation and expansion of scalable, low-cost innovations to improve early-grade literacy students in developing countries. Two opportunities are currently running.

  • Technology to Support Education in Crisis and Conflict Settings   Deadline: March 30
  • Tracking and Tracing Books Prize Competition  Deadline: April 1

DOS-USDC Diplomatic Simulations Program – A Project Coordination Team for Simulation Writing, Curriculum Design and Video Production  The U.S. Diplomacy Center announces a funding opportunity to provide the coordination of a Diplomatic Simulations Program that requires curriculum design, simulation writing, and the filming and editing of video clips that introduce the program and support the content of the simulations.  Deadline: April 22

DOC-NOAA Strengthening the Public’s and/or K-12 Students’ Environmental Literacy for Community Resilience to Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes  The goal of this opportunity is to strengthen the public’s and/or K-12 students’ environmental literacy to enable informed decision-making necessary for community resilience to extreme weather events and environmental changes. Projects should build the environmental literacy necessary for community resilience by focusing on geographic awareness and an understanding of Earth systems and the threats and vulnerabilities that are associated with a community’s location. Deadline: April 13

Limited Submissions:

Preproposals and rankings to the EVPRP should be e-mailed to Purdue’s open limited submission competitions, limited submission policy, and templates for preproposals may be found at  For any case in which the number of preproposals received is no more than the number of proposals allowed by the sponsor, the EVPRP will notify the PI(s) that an internal competition will be unnecessary.

Limited Submission: DOS-ECA FY2015 TechWomen Program  Applicants should plan to demonstrate the capacity to recruit and select a total of approximately 90 women from select countries in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East to participate in a five- to six-week peer mentoring program in the U.S. The award recipient will be responsible for arranging appropriate and meaningful mentorships for all the participants at U.S.-based science and technology companies, and for monitoring the safety and well-being of the participants while they are on the program. The mentoring experience will focus on advancing the status of professional women in the fields of science and technology through project-based mentorships, networking opportunities, and enhancement activities. Funding will also support activities in the participants’ home countries that encourage the interest of girls and university-age women in science and technology-based careers, and that engage young women using technology in their professions. For this opportunity, Purdue is limited to one application.


Workshop: Leveraging Research Development and Purdue-wide Resources for Large, Interdisciplinary Proposals  This workshop is targeted to Purdue faculty who are interested in pursuing large, interdisciplinary funding opportunities.  Lynne Dahmen, senior proposal coordinator in Research Development Services, will provide an overview of support available through the Office of Research and Partnerships including grant writing, resource leveraging, and site visit assistance. Senior Associate Vice President and Executive Director of Discovery Park, Al Rebar, will discuss how resources available through Discovery Park, including facilities and administrative support, can be key to the success of large, interdisciplinary proposals.  The workshop will be held on Tuesday, March 24th in Stewart 310 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Lunch is provided so registration is required at the link above.

DOD-DARPA Young Faculty Award Announcement is updated and replaced.  Deadline: April 13

NSF Dear Colleague Letter: Special Guidelines for Submitting Proposals: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and NSF Opportunity for Collaborations in Gravitational Physics

Please contact Sue Grimes (, Kristyn Jewell (, or Perry Kirkham ( with any questions.

To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact Mike Loizzo or David Radcliffe by midday Friday for the following week's issue.