Last Friday, I was privileged to spend the morning on a private tour of the Stevens Institute of Technology, hosted by the institute’s President Nariman Farvardin. With me were three CEOs of other New Jersey-based tech companies, all of us board members of the New Jersey Technology Council. Our goal? Learning how to increase cooperation between the corporate world and academia.
As a sponsor and supporter of the NJ Tech Meetup, which is hosted at Stevens, I am a frequent visitor to the institute. I know how beautiful the campus is and the amazing view it has of the New York City skyline. What I wasn’t aware of, is the institution’s rich history. Alumnae include Samuel Bush, patriarch of the Bush family, and Henry Gantt, inventor of the Gantt Chart, along with Eugene McDermott and Charles Stewart Mott, founders of Texas Instruments and General Motors respectively. I was also unaware of the pioneering research done at Stevens, its innovative approach to tech education, and how it prepares students for the emerging tech-oriented job market.
Stevens has a student body of 2,900 undergrads, 3,200 in graduate programs, and a real-world focused curriculum that boasts partnerships with leading corporations from finance giants to Broadway entertainment.
As President Farvardin explained, after the 2008 financial crisis, higher education, especially at the undergrad level, began adjusting to meet market demands. I am no expert but can’t imagine many traditional universities teaching music the way they do it at Stevens — with a focus on technology that leads to many graduates landing jobs on Broadway and the like.
During our tour, we visited the Hanlon Financial Systems Labs for computational finance. The freshman class we observed were all computer-science, mechanical-engineering and chemical-engineering students, all gaining solid, real-world training. We also visited the amazing Cybersecurity Lab, a program that works closely with corporations and government to address the growing risks of cybercrime. Students work with companies to solve existing problems, and many students go on to intern and eventually land full-time jobs with the university’s corporate partners and supporters.
Now before I upset friends at CMU, my alma mater, I’m not saying Stevens is the only leading tech-focused university. But institutions like Stevens and Newark-based New Jersey Institute of Technology, where Phone.com is based, are prime examples of a shift to technology-oriented education. And if high-school graduates have the opportunity to get a tech-based college education in any of the engineering disciplines, and certainly in computer programing, I would highly recommend it!
Another lab we toured during our visit, was the Immersion Lab, another amazing example of how academic research can partner in a very practical way with the corporate world and government. The lab’s main conference room is more like a command center, with wall-sized interactive monitors. Yet their research is what’s key. The Immersion Lab partners with the State of New Jersey to evaluate the risk of another catastrophe like super storm Sandy, using visualization techniques and simulations.
Finally, since I am sharing lab stories, in my opinion the crown jewel of what we saw at Stevens was the Davidson Lab. Located in a World War II-era building, you will find a 350-foot-long concrete pool that is used to model and assess marine craft designs. From navy torpedoes to America’s Cup racing vessels, the Davidson Lab at Stevens is one of only a couple such labs in the United States. The pool allows scientists to simulate high-wave conditions, and it was certainly the highlight of my visit to see a simulation in action!