Northeastern professors Simon Pitts and Michael Silevitch were formally presented with the 2015 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education at a ceremony Friday afternoon. The award recognizes their leadership and impact on the university’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program.
The honor, awarded annually by the National Academy of Engineering, 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, H’07—creates an elite cadre of engineering leaders defined by their ability to invent, innovate, and implement in the field. Pitts is the current director of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program and a professor of the practice in engineering leadership, and Silevitch is the program’s founding director and is now a lead program mentor.
“Michael and I are greatly honored to receive this award,” said Pitts, who thanked the National Academy of Engineering, Gordon, and the program’s students, faculty, staff, and mentors.
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 College, Tufts University, and Stanford University, among other institutions.
University leaders, students, faculty, staff, and guests attended the ceremony, which was held in the Raytheon Amphitheater. Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun, Bernard Gordon, and NAE President Dan Mote presented Pitts and Silevitch with the award.
Aoun congratulated Pitts and Silevitch for the award, and saluted Gordon for his vision in foreseeing the country’s need to educate and train more engineering leaders and creating the program. “Your vision is now a reality,” said Aoun, who also thanked Gordon for building on the program’s success with his recent $10 million gift to launch the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership.
In his remarks, Mote noted that this year’s award recognizes Pitts and Silevitch “for developing an innovative method to provide graduate engineers with the personal skills to become effective engineering leaders.”
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, and provides students with an invaluable competitive edge over their peers.
Pitts noted that Northeastern “is the ideal place to invent and deploy a program like this,” thanks to its emphasis on experiential learning and use-inspired research.
Prior to the presentation of the awards, a panel comprising Pitts, Silevitch, and professors and students discussed the program’s history, its innovative approach to engineering leadership education and mentoring, and the significant impact on students’ success.
Jeff Vautin, ME’15, who has worked at Bose since 2007 and is graduating from the program in May, noted that his “challenge project” involved using speakers in the headrest of a vehicle system to reproduce a phone call while using the rest of the car’s audio system to provide music throughout the rest of the vehicle. He said he’s demonstrated substantial growth in setting and realizing a vision by participating in the program, and he’s gained a better understanding of business as well as built his confidence and decision-making skills. What’s more, he’s been presented new opportunities in the workplace with greater autonomy and visibility at his company.
“The Gordon program has been a truly amazing experience,” he said, “and I’m looking forward to putting these skills to practice.”
Added Jane Eisenhauer, ME’15, a systems engineer in Raytheon’s integrated defense systems division who is also graduating from the program in May: “The balance, cohesion, and framework that I’ve gained through this program is invaluable.”