A few weeks ago, iCons director Scott Auerbach received an intriguing email. Prof. Pascal Vuilliomenet of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) had read about iCons in Chemical & Engineering News, and wanted to learn more. EPFL is in the process of developing a new integrative engineering program, and Prof. Vuilliomenet, along with EPFL Dean Thomas Rizzo, were scouring the globe for similar programs that they could learn from.
"The purpose of the project,” said Prof. Vuilliomenet, “is to find new ways to train future scientists and engineers to face and conquer current scientific and engineering challenges, which are increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. For this project we will develop a new pedagogical approach and physical infrastructure to support it.
Dean Rizzo and Prof. Vuilliomenet wanted to meet the faculty, staff, and students of iCons to learn about the development and operation of the program. So, they flew to Amherst from Switzerland to meet with us on Wednesday, October 19. Our day-long meeting included an official welcome from Provost Staros, tours of the Integrated Science Building laboratories where iCons III will be held, and presentations by the faculty of iCons I, II, and III. Over lunch, we discussed iCons mentoring and assessment plans.
At our meeting, Dean Rizzo told us, "When we read about iCons, it mirrored our thoughts concept for concept. It was eerily similar to our ideas and goals. It's helpful to learn from people who are already working on the kind of program we're trying to create."
iCons director Scott Auerbach is excited at the prospect of iCons being an inspiration to EPFL. “Of course, whatever EPFL creates will be different from iCons, because it will be part of a different school in a different culture. What’s great is to share ideas with and learn from others who are also passionate about integrative science education. I’m delighted that iCons can serve as an inspiration for Dean Rizzo and Prof. Vuilliomenet as they develop EPFL’s new program.”
The entire iCons team thanks Dean Rizzo and Prof. Vuillioment for traveling from Switzerland to spend a day exchanging knowledge with us. To learn more about EPFL, visit http://www.epfl.ch/index.en.html.