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Gordon Engineering Leadership directors honored by NAE

January 8, 2015

Michael B. Silevitch and Simon Pitts, respectively the founding and current directors of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program at Northeastern University, have been recognized by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for their contributions toward developing effective engineering leaders with one of the top NAE annual prizes.  This is the most recent in a year of exciting news for the program; in 2014, a sustaining gift from Dr. Gordon launched the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership, which will continue to act as one of the critical elements of the College’s academic experience.

The full text from the NAE announcement is below (available at http://www.nae.edu/Projects/MediaRoom/20095/107830/129231.aspx)


Washington, DC, January 8, 2015 – The National Academy of Engineering announced today that Simon Pitts and Michael B. Silevitch will receive the 2015 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Engineering Education “for developing an innovative method to provide graduate engineers with the necessary personal skills to become effective engineering leaders.” The $500,000 annual award honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society.

The Gordon Prize will be presented at Northeastern University this spring.

“I am pleased to recognize the 2015 Gordon Prize recipients and Northeastern University for their program dedicated to educating and inspiring the next generation of engineering leaders who will shape our world,” said NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr.

The Northeastern University Gordon Engineering Leadership Program (GEL) is a graduate degree and certificate program focused solely on developing leadership skills for the practicing engineer. The GEL curriculum focuses on five core pillars: leadership capabilities, leadership labs, product development, scientific foundations, and a challenge project. Typically, GEL students have three to five years of work experience in the field prior to entering the program. This model brings together teams of students who gain a common understanding of how to tackle challenges through rich discussion and mutual learning.

The current director of the GEL program, Simon Pitts, has been instrumental in building a community of practitioners among universities to share best practices in engineering leadership development. Prior to joining the Northeastern University GEL team, Pitts served as a senior executive at Ford Motor Co., where he learned the value of hiring engineering leaders with diversified backgrounds and who have mastered the leadership capabilities required for them to deliver successful products to market. His professional background and dedication to cultivating meaningful relationships between students and industry has had a tremendous impact on the growth and success of the GEL program.

Michael B. Silevitch, Robert D. Black Professor of Engineering, created the GEL program and served as its initial director. He is now a lead mentor for the students in the program. A critical element of the GEL curriculum is “three-way mentoring” where each student is assigned one mentor from the program, one industry partner mentor, and another mentor who has expertise in the student’s technical area. Silevitch has been critical to advancing this part of the program, which is designed to help students improve their leadership skills through evaluations from mentors.

The Gordon Prize was established in 2001 as a biennial prize recognizing new modalities and experiments in education that develop effective engineering leaders. Recognizing the potential to spur a revolution in engineering education, NAE announced in 2003 that the prize would be awarded annually.

Founded in 1964, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.


Source: News @ Northeastern

The National Academy of Engi­neering is hon­oring Northeastern’s Simon Pitts and pro­fessor Michael B. Sile­vitch for their lead­er­ship and impact on the university’s Gordon Engi­neering Lead­er­ship Pro­gram. The academy’s annual award, named Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Engi­neering Edu­ca­tion, rec­og­nizes inno­va­tion in edu­ca­tion that develops strong engi­neering leaders.

The Gordon Engi­neering Lead­er­ship Program—established in 2007 with a $20 mil­lion invest­ment by Bernard M. Gordon who made an addi­tional $10 mil­lion invest­ment in 2014—creates an elite cadre of engi­neering leaders defined by their ability to invent, inno­vate, and imple­ment in the field.

We are greatly hon­ored with this NAE recog­ni­tion, which affirms the college’s com­mit­ment to an outstanding—yet multidimensional—engineering edu­ca­tion, including skills needed for the work­place beyond strong tech­nical com­pe­tency,” said Nadine Aubry, dean of the Col­lege of Engi­neering. “Michael and Simon have done a fan­tastic job demon­strating how engi­neering lead­er­ship can be taught to engi­neering stu­dents in a focused and effec­tive manner around a real-​​world chal­lenge project posed by industry. The Gordon prize could not have come at a better time, just weeks after we announced the founding of the Gordon Engi­neering Lead­er­ship Insti­tute at Northeastern—made pos­sible by an addi­tional gen­erous invest­ment by Bernard Gordon. I look for­ward for the col­lege to fur­ther lead in this area.”

One of the academy’s hon­orees, Pitts has played an inte­gral role in growing the pro­gram to more than 30 stu­dents and in devel­oping the cur­riculum since taking over as the program’s director in 2010. He has also been building a com­mu­nity of prac­tice among the field, with insti­tu­tions such as the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology, Penn­syl­vania State Uni­ver­sity, and others. This com­mu­nity has turned into a con­sor­tium that holds con­fer­ences, shares best prac­tices and ped­a­gog­ical approaches, and col­lab­o­rates to enhance stu­dent expe­ri­ences in sim­ilar pro­grams nationwide.

Win­ning the prize is both a tribute to the team and a val­i­da­tion of our inno­v­a­tive approach. We’ve cre­ated a sys­tem­atic way of devel­oping both char­acter and the tech­nical skills needed to lead engi­neering teams to suc­cess­fully deliver in a chal­lenging real-​​world envi­ron­ment,” Pitts said.

Through the grad­uate pro­gram, stu­dents pursue a master of sci­ence in engi­neering in a range of dis­ci­plines such as mechan­ical engi­neering, elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering, and engi­neering man­age­ment, or a cer­tifi­cate in engi­neering lead­er­ship. Stu­dents, known as Gordon Fel­lows, simul­ta­ne­ously build lead­er­ship skills and grow their tech­nical product devel­op­ment skills while earning their degree. This program’s emphasis on the delivery of a market worthy chal­lenge project pro­vides expe­ri­en­tial learning, which is a cor­ner­stone of Northeastern’s edu­ca­tional model, pro­vides stu­dents with an invalu­able com­pet­i­tive edge over their peers.

For his part, Sile­vitch, the program’s founding director, is now a lead pro­gram mentor. Through a unique “three-​​way men­toring” approach, stu­dents are paired with men­tors from the pro­gram, with industry part­ners, and others with exper­tise in the student’s tech­nical area. These men­toring rela­tion­ships have had a crit­ical impact on stu­dents’ suc­cess, he said.

There were two key ele­ments that needed to be incor­po­rated into the pro­gram in order to accel­erate the devel­op­ment of an effec­tive leader,” Sile­vitch, Robert D. Black Pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and co-​​director of Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​Related Threats, a Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Center of Excel­lence said. “An engi­neering leader must be an engi­neer who is capable of under­standing not only a spe­cific field but is also able to grasp the multi-​​disciplinary aspects and trade-​​offs required for the design of modern prod­ucts and sys­tems. An engi­neering leader must also have a demon­strated record of accom­plishing major chal­lenges that required both tech­nical depth and an intense team-​​based effort to succeed.”

The academy’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Engi­neering Edu­ca­tion is pre­sented annu­ally and includes a $500,000 award. It was estab­lished in 2001 to honor those leading the field in devel­oping and cul­ti­vating strong engi­neering leaders. Past recip­i­ents have included indi­vid­uals at Dart­mouth, Tufts, and Stan­ford, among other insti­tu­tions. North­eastern will receive its award at a campus event on April 10, 2015.

Pitts and Sile­vitch plan to use a por­tion of the funds to gen­erate lead­er­ship case studies and sup­porting mate­rials to be dis­sem­i­nated in easily adapted forms to the engi­neering lead­er­ship edu­ca­tion com­mu­nity nationwide.

It is crit­ical that we pro­vide tomorrow’s engi­neering leaders with context—actual exam­ples of suc­cess and failure of com­plex engi­neering projects in the real world,” Pitts added. “These case studies will address areas where industry feed­back has indi­cated a con­sid­er­able need and they will max­i­mize the impact and dif­fu­sion across engi­neering edu­ca­tion and engi­neering practice.”