In April, UMR convened a panel of alumni and faculty to discuss a variety of issues related to globalization. The forum – “UMR in a Global Society” – was held on Friday, April 22, as part of the annual Order of Golden Shillelagh (donor society) Weekend on campus.
HUEBNER: From your perspective, what is the single greatest challenge that globalization presents to the United States, especially in higher education?
DOSHI: I hear a lot of young people have been making the comment on how small the world has become. I met Dr. Tony NANNI just a few minutes ago and we both seemed to know the [same] prominent family. That is truly a small world and that is a flat world. I think one of the major things that we have in societal issues is throwing more and more money at them. … We can do a lot of things in higher education, but the social foundation needs to be boosted up. If secondary education proved that learning math and science were the right thing to do or the prestigious and coveted thing to do, they would do it. It begins at the society and it begins at home.
HUEBNER: Frankly at the university we are seeing the product of 12 years of hard work of folks. Would you view that by raising the salaries of teachers in that profession and increasing their stature in society is a key?
DOSHI: That would be part of it, yes, but I think it also begins at home and in society in general, because you can throw money at it but you can’t buy that kind of mental attitude. Growing up in India, I knew that higher education was the key to success and knew we needed to instill that into a young mind. It can have a huge impact.
SHIL: I must agree with Mr. DOSHI. How we impact our society. … I think one of the challenges we face is how to publicize our education to the general public, show them the impact of a research-dominant institution of higher education and how it affects our lives on a daily basis. … At UMR many of our faculty do so many projects [that benefit society] but fail to show how they impact our lives on a daily basis. It’s not just UMR. A lot of institutions do this. How do we market those [research projects] and show that these things affect our daily lives? How do we market to the people to promote technology and these ideas? I think this would be beneficial to promote technology.
FLORI: I think the absolute most critical area is innovation in terms of our country being successful economically. The countries that are successful at innovating new technologies, developing new materials, are the countries that are going to be successful. Businesses that are going to be successful are businesses that create the new ideas, the new innovations. Those are the ideas we are talking about. Commoditizaton of goods? Let that go wherever it can be done. But the profits and successes are in new ideas. We need to cultivate a new generation who can innovate. It begins in the schools. We in higher education are doing a good job of that, I think. But the challenge is to do better, run faster, jump higher and help our students to understand that they aren’t competing against that student sleeping next to them in the classroom, but against the students in India, China, Russia, Korea or somewhere else in the world who are studying really, really hard.. I want my students to study hard.
I want to pose one question. How do you cultivate innovation in a student? I think our design teams are an excellent example of that. But the kinds of questions that teachers pose that are open ended and that don’t have one clear-cut answer – those force students to higher and higher cognitive levels of thinking and reasoning and understanding. The open-ended questions that encourage the student to find the answer or find the solution to. I think we ought to be doing that as much as we can.
NANNI: If I can take this up and perhaps reconnect to the original question very briefly … with respect to my point of view, the real challenge is in the disconnect we have with the younger generation and with the students in general. To an extent you can see it reflected this afternoon. The students are maybe at happy hour today. I understand; it’s a Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. and you don’t expect them to be here. But I think that in many instances these discussions that relate to the big picture remain with the generation that has the least to gain or to lose. … [We must] get the students involved. What can UMR do in this arena? We at UMR cannot solve their problem. Certainly I think we can work toward the global solution. … As a state institution, many times we hide ourselves behind the fact that a state institution doesn’t go past a certain point that doesn’t meet certain challenges, and does not run as a front runner but as a follower. So I think if we could change that attitude a little bit, we would go quite the distance. To me, to my colleagues and my students, this is a true challenge.
WOODARD: It seems we have in many areas a sense that mistakes are not essential. We see that in the media in many instances. So when you are talking about technology you are talking about innovation. You need to really be pushing the boundaries and taking technical risks. So I think that the challenges of universities today are to teach their students how to … take technical risks and work with experiments and discoveries. To have success and failures teach them – that failures are really discoveries. It is how we communicate that. Oftentimes in our communication, a failure is a failure. Now, a failure in an experiment is in fact a discovery. So we need to … directly communicate that. …
In order for our students to go out into the society and the global environment, having an element of their education on language and international culture would be a very important addition. This is an area where UMR could add to the base that they already have. Teaching students how their culture and other cultures view science and technology could be very beneficial – by offering courses, seminars, language, more extensive language offerings, study abroad opportunities in other cultures, more extensive languages offered, and [courses on] how other cultures view science and technology could be very beneficial.
HUEBNER: Many of you in the audience and I believe our panel has read the National Academy of Engineering and Sciences’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. … This report makes several recommendations with respect to what the federal governments should do in order to turn things around and in order to get interests in both the K-12 and high school levels in general for both students and teachers and parents alike. I am interested in the panel’s comments on those recommendations made in that report – whether we agree with them, whether there are things that additionally need to be done, or perhaps a needed change of focus.
SHIL: Well, honestly speaking, I did not have much idea about the pre-college education in the United States, because I wasn’t educated here before my master’s thesis. One thing I felt was how they were always trying to attract the best talent around the world; but after they are educated for 4 years, then the decision [becomes whether] to stay in that country. But if we had made an attempt to attract those people at an earlier age, maybe while they were in their high school, I think it would be much better.
I will cite an example: There are two people who live in the apartment and one of them is an Indian guy and he was studying to be an engineer. And he got a scholarship to come to Cal Tech. I was living with one of them and one of them got a scholarship in his sophomore year to come to U.S. to college, too. I was reading one of his articles and he told us if he didn’t get the opportunity to come to the U.S. to study he would not have the chance to work on the best systems. In India we have a good quality education system, and many good schools. But most of the student’s experiences lie in the pages of a book and not in the real world.
Maybe their lives would be changed if they had the opportunity to study and work in the U.S. If I can come here at the age of 24 and work on research or teach the students, why cannot I do that same thing at the age of 20 or 21 when I am still young? Maybe the institution can speak about it and try to challenge the barriers to age.
WOODARD: You asked about the four areas of recommendations. I hope that we as a nation will take on and embrace all four areas. But oftentimes the country will look for that one thing we can do – the silver bullet. … The visibility is a system problem and so all four areas really need to be worked on: K-12 education, research, the economy, and life. I think the report did a pretty good job of capturing some actionable recommendations. I think they also did not highlight some barriers of some of these areas, which still need to be addressed. An example is in education. In K-12 today, a master’s-educated computer scientist going to teach in middle school or high school earns the same salary as does an English teacher in most schools. Yet the computer scientist … actually has a much higher market base salary. So we have a problem. … That is just one example, but I think there are other issues in each of those areas that are even beyond the recommendations and that need to be addressed.
HUEBNER: Joan, do you feel the recommendation that they increase the research budget of NAH and the NSF and others 10 percent per year for seven years is adequate?
WOODARD: I think that in the U.S. … there is a history right now of coming off of an era where we have invested significantly in medical science-related research And even as early as five years or more ago, the medical community was in fact speaking out in Washington how much more research was needed for science and engineering, because the lag of research there was impeding their ability to make breakthroughs in the medical science areas. So there again is the recognition for the need for more science and engineering research.
My concern is that when our leadership in Washington and our members of Congress look at the data, they will see that the U.S. still by the numbers has very large research and development programs. But it’s looking underneath that. When you peel away the onion and you look at that research budget. In the U.S. industry base, government-funded research is equivalent to the research that is conducted in the rest of G-8 countries. You will see that enormous amount of research. … It’s mostly industry research and it’s not federal government. The vast majority is industry research. And if you peel away that, the vast majority of that is product development. That is not the research on innovation that fuels our economy for the future. … My concern is that we will start taking apart the system in reference to research.
NANNI: Perhaps this is a document that parts of the audience have not seen, but the premise is excellent. It is easy to criticize when you see what other people think are particularly right. To me, what I enjoyed about the publication was the “recipe.” But one thing I perhaps could disagree with is just the motivation. It appears to me that in this case the panel and the one who wrote the document are refocusing on the competitive aspects of our civilization, and the point I am trying to make is the following: Is it for us to be more competitive the only reason why we have to do better? Is this the only reason we want to be a global power? To be a global nation we have to do better. … I think if you want to motivate the young generation, you have to offer them more than just to say to them that we have to be the best. “Hey, we have to be the best, to be number one.” Fantastic. But that is like going to a meal with great food but you forget the reason why you’re there – not just to enjoy the great food and entertain yourself, but also to feed yourself.
FLORI: Tony, I agree with you. It is easy to read these reports, which are very nationalistic. But I agree that we need engineers and the world needs engineers and scientists, because there are many critical issues that the world is facing that need to be solved. Issues that relate to our quality of life – things like health, energy, many things like that that are for the good of the world and not just for national competitive image. I do want to mention Project Lead the Way, which is a middle school and high school pre-engineering curriculum that UMR is involved in. We think this will make a difference in some of these areas. But when you talk about education it truly is a systemic issue, as Joan said. It is like steering a barge or a large cruise liner. You can’t turn those very quickly. Our education system is like that Project Lead the Way … introduces students to pre-engineering principles, what engineers do, principles of design, principles of engineering, computer-integrated engineering, digital engineering, engineering design, civil engineering, computer engineering and architecture. Many science classes in high school are very good. They cover the natural world of biology, chemistry, physics. But they don’t adequately treat the manufactured world, the innovative or the manufacturing world. … That knowledge of engineering has not been represented in the schools, but there are some bright things happening in that respect.
One more thing I want to say about The World is Flat. As I was thinking about this panel today – and I am amazed at the groups we talk to who have not read this book – what we need is a Reader’s Digest condensed version of this book that can be given to teachers and distributed to high schools. Something of this nature should be addressed. Maybe somebody is working on that. But I think something like that should be accessible to groups of all ages.
DOSHI: I could not agree with you more. Because I think by the first 150 pages he has beaten the message to death. By the second chapter, I said, “I think I got the message.” A large part of the book … does point out things that we need to do and should do as a nation. One of the things it does point is the pride. … But I would like to make another observation: All is not bad here. The U.S. has the social infrastructure and the legal infrastructure that is unbeatable and probably will remain unbeatable for the next 50 years. Asia has a long way to go.
In Asia there are probably about 3 billion people, and we have 300 million people; so raw number-wise, we are never going to beat them. So I think we are just beating ourselves to death for nothing. If they graduated 2 percent, that could be bigger than our 20 percent, so keep in mind, all is not bad. Secondly, I think that if you look at college education in this country, even in science and engineering, there is such tremendous competition. … We have tremendous scores that could be educated. We could have the resources, given our freedom and infrastructure. I think it is still something to be proud of. It’s not all that bad. We can do a lot better, but we are not all that bad.
HUEBNER: Bipin could you comment on the differences between the educational systems in India and that of the United States, and maybe compare and contrast them with the respect to the advantages and disadvantages?
DOSHI: My wife she accuses me of being 40 year out of date. So I can’t comment on that one. I can’t comment on what is going on in India today, but we had two sons who went through the school system here. I think, again, when I was growing up, the family – even the social structure – was very intent that you had to [become educated]. In our family high school education was an event. It was not a folly. That way you thought it was something. “When you graduate from college, we will throw party. When you get your master’s degree, we will do something about it.” But I think the educational system in this country does instill tremendous amount of self-confidence. … It borders on almost cockiness. The freedom that we give [American students] and the self-assurance that we give them and the challenges we put to them are preparing them to fight in the world.
Sure, we have been an inward nation. We’ve thought that anything beyond our boundaries didn’t exist. So those borders are breaking down and we are becoming more sensitive to the masses outside and the Asian invasion. We have a fair amount of those people in our society – in the heart of America, too – and that will help America. Even when I went to school here 40 years ago, we had a lot of international students in Rolla, a little town of 10,000 people in the Midwest. We were getting a very good education and we had a very good welcome. It was very ordinary people with the cream of other societies, where we felt that every Joe had to be as good as the best in India and the best in China and so on.
SHIL: I agree with one thing that is different in the U.S. The difference is you get self-confidence in education. You can become a leader or study in the U.S., obviously as is in my case. In India one thing I never got was something out of engineering. I was in a school like UMR, only engineering and nothing else. We had an English department, history and other departments to give us a complete education and we had a good education. But that was minor. One of our friends realized that I hated history. But I realize now how much I would have loved history if I had been taught in a different way. I watch the History Channel more than any other channel. Plus one or two other channels I watch on TV today, just because I like those things. In India we didn’t get a chance to appreciate those opportunities. I look at the social dominance in India. No matter what kind of family you were from, you were always told once you graduate from high school you have to be an engineer or a doctor. I want to ask you guys, Do you have a problem with that with kids? How many times did you tell them to be an engineer or doctor? We are talking here today about the shortage of engineers in the United State, but how many times did you tell them to be an engineer? You probably have kids who you are very much involved in their life. In India you have to be a doctor or engineer to succeed in life. If I tell them to go to school and get a good education and be a good person, that is not good enough because in India we all were supposed to be engineers or doctors. In India we have many engineers which are coming out of our schools today and not all of them are coming out of premier technological universities.
And it is also true you have to start from home not in the high schools
HUEBNER: Tony can you comment on the European or the Italian education?
NANNI: I think there are some similarities in what I have just heard, but I think maybe I have been detached a little bit in the 25 years since I have had my last experience in the school system. … I think it is not necessarily the quality of the education but the fact that you are getting an education. It is not the so much that you have to be the best. You have to get an education. I think this perhaps is the most striking difference that I see in the two systems.
SHIL: May I make a small comment? I talked about engineering and that you have to be an engineer but it wasn’t whether you become an engineer or doctor. One thing I saw among many of my friends was that the families are very poor. I lived in a house in the city. And even if the family is very poor probably a father or a mom earning their wages but they will make sure that they make all the efforts for their son or daughter to have the money for their visa to go to college. Whether it is in engineering or to be a doctor it really doesn’t matter, just go get some education.
From the audience: I have been working in the energy field for the last 25 years. I worked outside the U.S. in China, India and Russia and the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Question: When you see engineers and other people with technical backgrounds go outside the United States and present themselves and work in other cultures, what do you feel like are their strengths and their drawbacks in how they perform and how they are accepted in the other cultures and business environments?
SHIL: Those engineers need to be quantitatively very strong and technologically strong. I would like to stand here and talk to have the courage to come to the front and talk. I don’t think many of them would qualify. I don’t think that qualify is the right word, it is a little too firm. But I don’t think they would have the courage to come to the front of the room and talk, not because they cannot but it is because they have never been given the chance to do these things. Many people get nervous and pace around all night long. The leadership you get out of the U.S. judicial system – I don’t think you can learn those things over in India.
From the audience (Daniel Babcock, professor emeritus of engineering management): A half a century ago, when I studied engineering, nobody bothered to tell me about the rest of the rest of the world except the geography I got in grade school. When I taught here in ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.we didn’t bother to tell anyone else about the rest of the world. Now the suggestion has been made that our engineering undergraduates and graduates need to know more about the rest of the world. Assuming that we put together one three-credit-hour course that was strongly urged by our engineering students, undergraduate students, to tell them about the engineering, the business the cultures of specific parts of the world, such as India, Asia and Africa, what then should be in that course?
WOODARD: I would suggest not taking the strategy of creating once again another course. Even within the curriculum at UMR, which I am a little out of date on, there are still some English literature, English composition and history classes that are part of the basic curriculum. I think that, whether it be at the higher education level or even K-12, there needs to be much more integration of aspects of knowledge of the world globalization and science and technology woven into the curriculum today. So, we teach history but we rarely teach history as to how technology has progressed in various nations, within our nation, or even across the world. We teach literature, but we very rarely study any of the literature about the history of technological innovation. I would take the strategy of integrating rather than creating one more.
DOSHI: The foundation is probably at the high school level, even a little earlier than that. By the time they come here, they should know a lot about that so that they can integrate what they are learning with a greater understanding of the world.
FLORI: That is part of the need of the Reader’s Digest condensed version of The World Is Flat, for people to realize how important that really is. I think these days probably other countries are learning more and more about the United States than the reverse. … Within the UMR curriculum there are now six credit hours of totally free electives, that weren’t there a couple of years ago. … There are choices of history, humanities and foreign languages. They can now take humanities, foreign language as one of their which they could not do 15 years ago. So there are some options that students have.
I would like to see UMR do more by bringing in another faculty member or two who specialize in some of these globalization issues that we are talking about, look carefully over our foreign language offerings and offer something more in that area and really develop these areas.
UMR is a remarkable story, an icon. The school was originally founded in 1870 as a regional school designed to serve the needs of the region. Our graduates have circled the world, addressing technological issues in the world – discovering mines, discovering new materials, and serving the needs of humanity across the world. Truly and amazing story, I think. So regardless of whether we taught the internationalization stuff, the students got there and did it and managed to be successful. Here we are now, a great technological university, and our graduates touch the world. … I would like to see us develop a cadre of faculty, more students from across the world to create even more of this kind of dialogue to make UMR even more relevant.
From the audience (unidentified): In relation to that I just have a comment to make. I don’t how many students are here – 4,000?
From the audience (unidentified): Just look at your panel. You have an Italian and two Indians. There was a chemical engineering academy pizza lunch today and there were Chinese, Italian and Korean people there. There was a fairly high percentage, probably 10 percent or more. I would think that you would have the opportunity to interact with each other every day and learn from each other. I think that would be happening every day here.
SHIL: Our classes, at least in my department, give me an opportunity to work with people outside of Rolla and outside of Missouri. … I think because we have the communication center here at UMR, maybe we should have a classroom with different parts of the world. Maybe have one professor from New Delhi and maybe one professor from UMR. I know if you have worked with people across the globe you have communicated your beliefs to them. Working across the globe will also create a better learning experience for the students. That is what students will gain most experience from.
FLORI: Is there a way we can get more international students in our fraternities? They are wonderful, but they all look the same. I would be interested in getting more diversity on the campus.
From the audience (Shari Dunn-Norman, associate professor of petroleum engineering): I want to just make a comment about the classrooms and other people integrating other people here and I also want to come back to something Ralph said. As we move towards more and more technology classrooms I think we are going to see more integration with bringing in people from other locations. I think technology is going to help us go a long way to doing that and we look we look forward to doing that with our new petroleum technology classroom. Now, let me say something a little bit self-promoting, maybe arrogant. I firmly believe that the petroleum engineering department is one of the most international disciplines on this campus. I have tried until I am blue in the face to tell these petroleum students that if they want to give themselves a cachet that they could take advantage of our language programs here and these humanities hours offerings for that. So I wanted to go back to this Ralph. I have been hammering and hammering on these kids to do this, even to the point of having a meeting and having the Russian professor come and a person from industry come and tell these students what it is like to be dropped off in Moscow at the wrong place in the middle of the night. They listen intently to that and then they think, “I don’t want to do that because that is too hard I might get a C and if I take art appreciation I will get an A, and that will make my grade point much better.” I think we need work together with the recruiters to tell them, “No, we would really want to see you have four semesters of Russian even if you do get a C, because it will be more beneficial to you in the long run.” As part of our overall outreach effort this semester, the Society of Petroleum Engineers had someone begin to offer Arabic on this campus. And we have had up to 35 people, including staff, faculty and students, and believe it or not – disappointingly to me – only three or four from that class are petroleum engineers. So I just wanted to tell you what had been doing and how interesting it has been. And I think, Dr. [Henry] Wiebe [dean of the UMR School of Extended Learning] if we offered this class globally to the petroleum audience, that would be a great outreach for UMR
HUEBNER: Joan I have a question with respect to a little follow up, when you were mentioning earlier about how you felt that our students needed to be exposed to different things. Quite a few of the examples that you cited required physical relocation if you will, whether it is study abroad or … a lot of the internship programs that Sandia is engaged in. Quite a few UMR students have spent summers in co-op experience there. What do you feel is important and how much can we really do here? How much do we really need to emphasize that you need to get out of your comfort zone and head across the water?
WOODARD: First of all, I appreciate exactly what Shari was talking about in terms of the pressures on grade point averages, pressures on taking more credit hours. We’ve already got a huge engineering curriculum, which we need to accomplish. There is tremendous value in encouraging students to take advantage – and in fact for the university to look at where they can take advantage of other programs. There are opportunities, so I will give you an example: Sandia National Labs. One of the roles that we provide for the nation in national security is helping with putting in security systems worldwide. … Our employees go to Russia and spend weeks on end in Russia and spend time in the Middle East and spend time in Asia. We also have visitors that come from those countries spend time during the summer, and our interns spend time with the visiting foreign nations in various regions of the world, as they are spending their time or summers in India. That is just one example.
Where I would encourage the university to go is to continue to support the programs that offer study abroad and continue to try to emphasize [international studies], as Shari has, by bringing in alumni who can explain the importance of having this international savvy that is important for their work. But also, the university should do some research and find where they can leverage what they other schools are doing. I will give you an example: my son is taking a six week course in Arabic where they go to Morocco and learn the language and go to the language institute there … and they learn about culture of the country. There are students there from Princeton and there isn’t any reason why UMR can’t connect up with this opportunity. It doesn’t add to their credits but they do gain exposure to the culture.
SHIL: As she was speaking I was just thinking, Why don’t we send our students to the best universities for a semester? It is such a great experience at UMR, why don’t we send our students for a fellowship to study at IIT [India Institute of Technology] or in Europe? Because it would be cost effective and they would learn a different approach to education. We try to bring the students from other countries. We try to get students from Beijing University and India. Why don’t we send our students to study at IIT or whatever university it is? We have such experts at UMR. This would expose them to a different approach to education and a different culture. It would be a much better than sitting here talking to me.
HUEBNER: Tony, do you have any comments on our Italian connection?
NANNI: Perhaps. I think some things are happening that are going to facilitate this exchange. For example, I have noticed that over the last few years many universities in the world now do use English as their teaching medium. Now, one would say that this provides an experience for the student. I don’t think that you necessarily have to learn the language, but you must learn the culture. I think there are many issues here. I can sense the changing of the tide. Like today you see a lot of foreign students come to the U.S. for their education; I can guarantee you that very soon it is not going to be this way. You can get a very good education somewhere else for half the price. … My best recruit is here from Venezuela, and he was going to Berlin to get his master’s. I said, “Oh, Jesus, you’re going to Berlin to do what? Get your master’s? But you speak Spanish. You will have to learn German.” He said, “No, they offer English.” These opportunities are coming available and students will take advantage of them.
The point I am trying to make is these opportunities are there and we need to have technical courses that would allow them to explore the language now. English is the language now. It is the equivalent of saying what kind of operating system do you have, but it happens to be the one that the students must speak here. In Europe, they spend at least one semester in Italy or Spain or another country and learn their language and culture. The European Union sponsors them and they spend at least one semester in a different country. …
From the audience (John Lovitt): I think one of the biggest concerns with globalization is that we become too nationalistic. I worry a lot more about the political side of globalization more so than I do about the educational side of it. So I have a couple of comments one is that I think about the nationalistic concerns … where we focus not on business but on globalization and not on the country, but on the cost of globalization. Part of that is if we shut off the in-migration or we shut the borders and end up losing the in-migration, we lose a huge, huge resource. I think that resource is drawn here partly for education or partly because of the opportunity of post-education, which I want to comment on the research versus development paradigm because I am not sure that the U.S. will be the preeminent pure research country. … The U.S. is good at the productization of science and the process of gathering capital. Where we are really risk-willing is with our start-ups .I have worked in silicone valley and I worked there for a number of years and eight or 10 people who became CEOs of startups are making more capital. If I were to say something to the University of Missouri-Rolla I would say, Get connected to capital formation and the entrepreneurial startup side of industry because I think there is a huge draw there. Most of the people who came to the Bay Area came as students and stayed because there were opportunities with these small entrepreneurial companies there. I think at UMR, we export a lot of people to other companies in California, to other entrepreneurial opportunities. We export a lot of people to other places, but I don’t think that we do a good job of fostering that entrepreneurial base right here around home as much as we could.
HUEBNER: John, you will be glad to know that last September 1st we opened up our own Office of Technology Commercialization and Economic Development and we appointed our first director, Keith Strassner. Just over the first two months of this year we had more invention disclosures submitted than we had submitted the entire previous year. I think just last night at the Technology Transfer Showcase within the UM System we had almost 30 percent of all the IT inventions disclosures. We are building momentum because President Floyd has announced that entrepreneurship is one of our fundamental missions of the university a couple of years ago and this is one thing which has changed our focus, and there is a slow cultural change occurring now.
HUEBNER: Bipin, if I could ask you a question that is more focused in on industry: How has globalization affected your business in Schaefer Gear Works in South Bend, Ind?
DOSHI: It did, in fact, but mostly in a good sense. Number one, if the Chinese didn’t do what they are doing today we would be in trouble. As an industry, we cannot hire people to do what we do because we are oversold. All of my colleagues in the industry are oversold. Right now we have been in the peak and now we are back out of the trough. We wonder how if someone didn’t do and continue to do 5 percent of what we do overseas, we couldn’t keep up. The low cost labor – there is a lot written in the media about it. If you look at the direct labor costs, some of the other overhead costs, it is somewhere between10 to 12 percent. If that became zero, we still wouldn’t be able to compete.
That is the good news. China, India and the Asian countries – we need 20 to 27 percent lower than what we can impact in this country. If that became 10 percent, we still wouldn’t be able to compete. … So overall it is not as bad, as they are doing what we truly don’t want to do. … This nation was built on is getting the best value. I believe in the free market, and that isn’t all bad as we make it out to be.
SHIL: I am a lot younger than most of you in this room, maybe all of you in this room.
One example of NAFTA, from 1993 to 2001 NAFTA has added 800,000 jobs in the United States alone, while the trade deficit has gone into a loss. Many people are saying NAFTA is taking so many jobs. I think the jobs that are being lost are the high wage/low skill jobs, manufacturing jobs. I had a friend at Ford Motor Co. and he was an engineer and he was getting paid $60,000 and he had 10 years, 12 years experience as a welder. … Would you be willing to pay more than $20,000 for a Ford Escort? My answer would be no. Why is that cost going up? How could the company stay competitive to sell the car for a cheaper price to the customer? How can the companies compete, when they have to tell the customer that their product has gone up?
HUEBNER: So far we have covered five of the 27 potential questions. We are coming up on the last 15 minutes and we encourage any of you who have questions to come on up as we continue the dialogue here. I am interested in knowing some of your opinions about the importance of basic research versus applied research. How has it shifted over the years and does it have an impact on our long-term future in terms of being competitive?
NANNI: I guess I have strong opinions about this. I can try with an analogy as a human being. What do you value more, water or air? I don’t think we can separate them so clearly. I think that to me the real issue is to view the research from the perspective as to what are the long-term strategic objectives? What I am afraid of is that sometimes at the national level, because they are a result of the thinking of the moment, they need to address a problem of the moment. But it is not certainly with the good of mankind or human beings.
I want to make an example that affects me directly; I do a lot of work here in research for homeland security. Prior to 9/11 there wasn’t research in homeland security. Security is very important because there is a lot of money. If we could have solved the problem in another way, maybe political or technological, we would have saved a lot of money and we could have invested that money in something else. So the point in my mind is to invest the limited resources we have in areas that are sanctioned.
HUEBNER: Joan you had commented earlier that in reality a lot of the industry research was more along the lines of research to develop the product and get it out the door. Are you concerned at all with respect to the kind of balance we have?
WOODARD: Yes, I have noticed at Sandia. I have been with this research laboratory for about three years, and there is a definite change in the nature of the research funds that we receive in the tolerance or just in the true spirit. The definition of experiment is that it has a 50 percent chance of being correct. When the funding customers within the federal agencies believe that you have to be 99 percent sure of your success, then you are driving down the level of innovation and the level of technological risk that you can embrace. That is the part I am concerned about.
HUEBNER: Have you found it difficult to attract the top talent that Sandia has always seemed to be able to attract with this kind of change in environment and being risk-averse?
WOODARD: The talent largely comes to the institution because of the capability of the laboratory to do research. It comes from the people who are at the laboratory in the research laboratory itself.
From the audience (Robert Mitchell, dean of the UMR School of Engineering): Yes, well, I do have a question. I think we all appreciate the social, the technical, the economic reasons for globalization the moral reasons. But since Joan is here, and she is probably one of the most knowledgeable national security persons, I ‘m sure you must give advice to the president on this. I guess my question is there must be a small part of globalization that is a danger: dependence on suppliers and how it impacts us here at the university. Well, we did have a visit from the FBI recently. The issue that we want to make sure of is that we don’t release information that might be used against us. And therefore any international student is exposed to any equipment or information in the U.S. that we are not allowed to export, then that is illegal. So of course the Commerce Department defines that this glass beaker could be used to make a nuclear weapon, therefore no glass beakers for international students. It can be taken to that extreme, so I guess my question is: Do you see just a small piece of globalization that we have to be careful about given your position?
WOODARD: I have a concern about a thrust in policy in the direction you are talking about, Bob. Because, if you plan on not doing any more innovation then of course you want to guard your secrets as if they were the crown jewels. But we all know it is impossible to guard the programs, security, and absolute security. So the real answer is to have some reasonable control of technology, intellectual properties and it is truly the most important and critical from a national security perspective.
You talk about technology and security and there are needs that concern me. One that has been really highlighted in the discussion today and highlighted in Tom Friedman’s book has to do with what really enabled the flattened world, and that is the IT broadband, the ability to trade at the speed of light. But that also brings with it concerns in terms of security, just individual privacy and so then you add to that the international dimensions and there is much to be done in security technology development in the next four, five or six years. That is highlighted in the White House report that came out in response to the Rising Storm report.
FLORI: I am a proponent of engineering being an important degree for almost anyone – medicine, politics, law or anything.
HUEBNER: While I have you at the mic, we are interested in learning more about your experiences with Project Lead the Way. What is your experience with the comfort level of the teachers and are they accepting what you are trying to do in this program? How do you get the teachers excited about it, and feeling like that they have the ability to teach these courses in these modules?
FLORI: One of the cool issues about Project Lead the Way is that the high school teachers engaged in that come to a college like UMR to train. They do in that two weeks much of the full year’s curriculum. They come here for two weeks during the summer and they spend eight or 10 long days. Many of the teachers are challenged by the math, science and the technological aspect of it, and they are excellent people. I am looking forward to sending them back out to see how well prepared that they will be. They are truly excited to be teaching engineering. Think about in your profession when you learn something new. These teachers in mid-career are asked by their schools, then to go learn new courses to teach these students. And you go and visit these classes and see them doing projects in the classes – teachers who are truly excited about doing it and students who are truly excited about doing it. I mean the teacher will talk to you but the class is fully engaged in the projects. They are excited about doing and the work doesn’t stop. To see classes engaged at that level, I think, is very rewarding. I think it is a great story. One of the great values of Project Lead the Way is that it is on the streets. The curriculum is in schools, and I think it will help.
HUEBNER: Ralph, do you feel like UMR rewards the type of participation that you have engaged in? What will it really take in terms of our culture here to have more outreach to the K-12 community? What are your feelings?
FLORI: That is a good question. I feel like UMR has a strong position of valuing education and at valuing teaching, and I don’t think that has diminished. I have had a wonderful career here, and I appreciate that and I appreciate Dean Mitchell giving me the freedom to bring me on to do this job, and Ron Fannin, my chair. It has been fun. I think it is very good for UMR We will see it here for years to come, hopefully. It is a good area and I feel more and more people will get into it. You would find it interesting to know that there is a thrust for students to do more engineering research. There is a greater value on engineering educators doing high-level education research, truly scientific education research, and it is very important because it should help engineering education in the years to come.
NANNI: I think that this has just happened today, so I think it was worth mentioning. It just indicates, in my mind, that we are having some successes here as you are indicating. I was just on the phone just before noon and I am not going to mention the school and I am not going to mention the dean. I was attempting to recruit the faculty member, and the dean was a reference for the faculty member’s wife. The dean indicated it was not quite negative, but I just wanted to mention it to you, that this young professor was too involved in the K-12 program. Dr. FLORI, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Some bright stars are focusing on this, and this was a very pleasant experience for me.
From the audience (Don Myers, professor of engineering management): There is a weak link, or used to be a weak link, that I have not heard anyone talk about. When I started as the science advisor to the governor in the mid-80s, something like 50 percent of the high school teachers who were teaching science, physics, chemistry and math were not certified. They didn’t have the training and they were certified temporarily. How can we get where we want to go if that isn’t corrected? Now maybe my numbers are wrong, or the numbers have changed? Does anyone have a comment on that?
WOODARD: I just want to add to that there is a recent study that came out and was published and covered by the local media in New Mexico. I forgot the number nationally but specifically it said that 48 percent of students in New Mexico must take remedial courses. We truly have a problem and will until we can do something about the level of competency of our teachers.
HUEBNER: Well, folks, we are nearing the ending of this forum. I am going to bring our panel to a close and with that, I just want to make one comment and it concerns something Ralph had to say. I believe that this panel clearly illustrates an important point that is true of many of in this room. Many of you are alums, and many of you in the panel are alums, and some of you are here for OGS weekend. And the fact of the matter is you are passing on a fine tradition of the attitude to simply pass it on because all of you were impacted and stood on the shoulders of giants, who helped facilitate your education and who spurred your interest and helped turn you into an engineer. The fact is most of the time you can’t thank that person. There is nothing you can do other than to give back to the next generation.
I really want to thank this panel and I have just been amazed by the pearls of wisdom. I am glad this has been recorded so I can listen to it many times over. This is kind of a first for us that I hope we continue, because we are very interested in the opinions and the wisdom of our alumni and faculty, as our students need all the collective wisdom you can give them to help them succeed in a global society.
I would like to thank our panels one more time and give them a round of applause. Have a good OGS Weekend.