NEW YORK, September 30, 2009—Dr. Lester A. Gerhardt, professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering (ECSE) and computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, will spend the 2009-2010 academic year as Senior Advisor to the President of the Institute of International Education (IIE), focusing on internationalizing higher education programs in science and technology. IIE is the world's most experienced global higher education and professional exchange organization, collaborating with public and private sponsors to expand study abroad and internationalize higher education. During his year-long sabbatical from Rensselaer, Dr. Gerhardt will use his expertise to help the Institute launch initiatives promoting international exchanges in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and expanding study abroad opportunities for U.S. students and scholars in STEM fields.
Dr. Gerhardt career has been dedicated to teaching and research in digital signal processing and systems, and to internationalizing the field of engineering. In 1995, Dr. Gerhardt was elected Founding Chair of the Global Engineering Education Exchange Program (Global E³), a consortium that now links close to 40 U.S. engineering schools with over 50 academic institutions worldwide, exchanging engineering students for a semester or year study abroad, with credit earned towards degrees at their home institutions. This groundbreaking program currently serves over 250 students from 19 countries annually and serves as a model of best practices for STEM global exchange programs.
Under his guidance, Dr. Gerhardt's home institution recently launched Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons (REACH), a new initiative to ensure that every undergraduate engineering student has an international experience before graduating. He is also one of the 19 framers of the recently published Newport Declaration calling for deliberate and immediate steps to integrate global education into the engineering curricula in the United States.
"Gaining international perspective is essential preparation to succeed and excel in this ever-more interconnected world, and for that reason we established the model REACH program," said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. "At Rensselaer and beyond, it is essential to create these new pathways for international student exchange that will better prepare students, particularly those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to lead in the global economy. We applaud IIE for their initiative to expand these model international science and technology exchange programs, and for engaging Dr. Gerhardt in the effort."
IIE's new appointment builds on an array of existing programs to internationalize higher education in STEM fields alongside Global E³, including the Central Europe Summer Research Institute funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Fellowships and Gilman International Scholarships funded by the U.S. State Department, the Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars, and the National Security Education Program David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships. This year IIE will host a special pre-conference Symposium on Internationalizing Engineering Education on March 18 as part of its 5th Annual Best Practices Conference in New York City.
"We are inspired by Dr. Gerhardt's dedication to international education and honored to welcome him as a senior advisor who will help us intensify the effort to globalize science and technology education and make international study a part of every American STEM student's education," says Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of IIE.
As Senior Advisor to the President, Dr. Gerhardt will spearhead initiatives to encourage more U.S. STEM faculty participation in international knowledge-sharing opportunities like the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program. He will also advocate for more undergraduate and graduate STEM students to study abroad and build awareness within the academic community of the many advanced research centers around the world.
At Rensselaer Dr. Gerhardt was selected as the first chair of the then newly merged ECSE department and largest at Rensselaer. Most recently he served as Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, acting by appointment of President Jackson. His combined academic and industrial work has had global impact for many decades. Dr. Gerhardt was a delegate to the Scientific Affairs Division of NATO and on the International Advisory Board of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). He also served on and chaired the A*STAR Science Advisory Board in Singapore among other international consultancies.
Dr. Gerhardt is an IEEE Fellow, an ASEE Fellow and was the Inaugural Recipient of the National ASEE Research Administration Award in 2001. He was recently named one of nine faculty in the U.S. designated ‘agents of change' for globalizing engineering education as part of an ongoing National Science Foundation study and will be soon featured in a new book on the subject. He holds a honoris causa from the Technical University of Denmark, in addition to his earned degrees, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Buffalo in 2009.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education (IIE), founded in 1919, is the oldest and most experienced private, not-for-profit U.S. educational exchange organization. Through its network of U.S. and overseas offices, IIE implements more than 200 programs benefiting nearly 18,000 men and women from 175 nations annually. The Institute plays an important role in administering scholarship and training programs that are integral in the development of future leadership in the science and technology fields.