New milestone for Purdue's 2023 EPICS workshop at Morgan State University
Following a successful pilot EPICS program last fall with Purdue and Morgan State University students, a strong partnership continued between both institutions this summer with the 2023 EPICS workshop hosted at Morgan State on June 22-23.
Founded at Purdue in 1995, EPICS is a multidisciplinary, engineering-based design course focusing on experiential learning and community partnerships. The program differs from most design courses because it supports long-term projects in favor of shorter ones that restart every year. However, the unique nature of the program means that implementation is not always straightforward. For two decades, Purdue has facilitated EPICS workshops worldwide to help institutions adopt EPICS into their programming. Today, more than 50 universities and more than 100 middle and high schools have adopted an EPICS program.
The two-day workshop centered on helping the 10 participating institutions initiate or improve an EPICS program on their campus. Funding, transportation logistics, liability, building community partnerships and embedding institutional structures to carry the program forward year after year were a few topics discussed. However, this year’s workshop at Morgan Stated ushered in an exciting new milestone for EPICS.
“This is the first time we’ve had a Historically Black University host the workshop, so that was really exciting,” said William (Bill) Oakes, director of the EPICS program and assistant dean of experiential learning at Purdue. “This was also the first time we had someone who could talk about being in the Purdue program, who was starting it at their own institution, and who was hosting the workshop. It was a pretty neat connection.”
James Hunter, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Morgan State, is the lead faculty at Morgan State initiating its pilot EPICS program. He earned a master’s of civil engineering from Purdue in 2002 and a doctorate in civil engineering in 2006. He’s also a former Purdue EPICS teaching assistant. He spoke to participating institutions and Morgan State faculty about his experience with EPICS and the steps Morgan State is taking to pilot the program.
“The great thing about the workshops was that everybody had a chance to give their input about their institution and their background and provide pointed feedback about how it could run at Morgan State,” Hunter said.
One featured workshop speaker also provided unique perspective on the program. Aliyah Crawford is a Purdue engineering undergraduate who was part of the pilot program, the Better Waverly project, in northeast Baltimore last year. Morgan State invited Crawford to continue her EPICS work at the university over the summer. She shared her experience with EPICS with workshop participants, what she enjoys about the program and offered honest feedback on student motivations and why they choose to continue with EPICS or not.
“It was enlightening for folks,” said Hunter. “It helped clarify some of the issues that some of the other programs have when implementing the EPICS model in terms of keeping enrollment of students in that program going over multiple years. That perspective was very important.”
The annual EPICS workshop is an exciting time to cultivate new ideas and approaches for the program. Oakes and Hunter are both excited about the building momentum of EPICS at Morgan State and hosting the workshop was another critical step in the institution’s adoption of the program.
“Rarely do you feel like you’re at the right place at the right time with the right work,” Oakes said. “With their efforts at Morgan State, both on the education side and their interaction with the community, EPICS truly adds value to their initiatives within their community and how they want Morgan to support their community.”