The Center of Gravity Has Shifted
The steam engine. Electrical energy, energy distribution, and electrical networks. Engineering. Computers and computer science. The internet. Industrial revolution isn't a phase: It's a constant.
More than 130 years ago, Michigan Technological University was established as a training ground for mining engineers, with founding legislation that called on us to "promote the welfare of the industries of the state." Over the decades, we evolved to keep pace with physical technologies—in mechanical engineering, forestry, computer science, and scientific and technical communication, to name a few. We expanded our focus to examine not just the technologies themselves, but the impact they have on society.
Now, the center of gravity has shifted. We've entered the age of cyber technologies. They merge with almost every tool and aspect of our daily lives, creating an ever larger, interconnected network known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Increasingly capable levels of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have broken out of academic laboratories and into the mainstream of lucrative technological applications.
Industry 4.0. The Second Machine Age. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. No matter what we call it, we're living it.
As a technological university with a vision to improve the quality of life—and promote mutual respect and equity—for all people within the state, nation, and global community, we've reached a pivot point in our trajectory. Grounded in our history and with an eye on the future, we're working today to meet the needs of an increasingly connected tomorrow.
Tomorrow needs talent. Tomorrow needs Michigan Tech.
We're ready. Are you?
This is a unique moment in time—a new industrial revolution.
As a society, we find ourselves poised on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. A revolution that blends the lines of arts and humanities with science, technology, and engineering.
Michigan Technological University finds itself uniquely positioned within this confluence. Not only do we have a deep understanding of the technology itself, but also a proclivity for assessing the ethical implications this new technology will have on our society and environment. Armed with this in mind, we spent the last year hosting a series of campus conversations with both internal and external stakeholders. The topic: How will Michigan Tech influence and adapt to the disruptive forces of the 21st century to create a better tomorrow for all of humanity?
From those conversations, nine institutional initiatives emerged.
Education for the 21st Century
The world of higher education is evolving. Today's students—digital natives, and many of them already entrepreneurs—expect a different style of learning, one that's more self-directed. At the same time, they're entering a job market that is rapidly shifting as well. The colleges and universities tasked with educating and preparing these students will need an evidence-based, mission-oriented approach.
Data Revolution and Sensing
The technological world continues to shift away from physical technologies—and the more traditional engineering disciplines—to cyber technologies. At the same time, computing has become pervasive in the job market. Given the broad and essential role computing plays across many disciplines and industries, we must pivot in our approach to computing and information science education and research.
Policy, Ethics, and Culture
As apps and algorithms play an ever-increasing role in our daily decision-making, we need research, policy engagement, and education to address the ethical and cultural challenges, implications, and strategies unique to our emerging technological environment.
Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
As vehicles and vessels—in the air, on the road, and under water—become more connected and less dependent on a human handler, more questions arise as to their impact and safety. We need to engineer and test these vehicles and systems in unique and unorthodox environments to fully explore and demonstrate to the public, in a safe context, the capabilities of automated and intelligent systems.
Health and Quality of Life
Wellness is multifaceted and often a community endeavor. As a University, we should examine the ways in which humans can build vibrant communities of well-being while simultaneously creating technology to improve the human condition.
Diversity and Inclusion
The STEM fields are notoriously lacking in women and people from racial and ethnic minority groups. Michigan Tech has been a microcosm of that macrocosm. We need a new kind of commitment, revamped strategies, and cross-campus education to create a more diverse, inclusive University culture.
Natural Resources, Water, and Energy
Finite resources and a changing climate demand that humans reconfigure their relationship with the environment. Through innovative technocentric education, transdisciplinary research, and improvements to our local environments, we can study and solve grand challenges in natural resources, water, and energy.
Sustainability and Resilience
To achieve sustainability and cultivate resiliency, we need to move beyond a list of checkboxes; the process requires a baseline shift in engineering design thinking. To start, getting a handle on the challenges means relying on the rigors of basic science with a clear pathway for academic knowledge to make its way into factories, clinics, communities, and homes.
Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
On a global scale, industries are moving toward a circular economy—an economy in which we extend as far as possible the life of all goods and materials bought, sold, and discarded. To curb extraction, pollution, and waste, the future demands innovation in materials manufacturing, design, and simulation.