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Photo of Joseph Bordogna

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation

WFEO Capacity Building Committee Planning Meeting
National Academy of Engineering
June 30, 2004

Good morning. I know you are already deep into your deliberations and I'm sure you had a productive day yesterday exploring how to promote capacity building in underserved areas, and how to demonstrate the value of engineering. Your objectives in "Engineering for a Better World" are nicely stated:

  • to strengthen human and institutional capacity in developing and developed countries
  • to promote engineering to young people
  • to provide an interactive and catalytic role for the application of engineering and technological resources to sustainable economic and social development and poverty eradication

I'd like to reflect briefly on how these relate to NSF's vision.

We are know that engineers design and build society and civilization. They carry forth the human intent for an era that lies ahead. It is the engineer who conceptualizes the ideas for progress.

The world is on a fast clock of change, and engineering leadership must recognize the directions of this change. We have an unusual opportunity to educate for green design, for integrative thinking and collaboration, for the effective use of resources, for the interchange of cultures, and for capitalizing on new knowledge at the frontier of science and engineering.

The 20th century has witnessed an explosion of knowledge and increased specialization of academic pursuits. Paraphrasing the words of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, in his Mission of the University, the need now to synthesize knowledge and connect disciplines elicits a genius for integration from the future.

Mastering the integration of ideas and technologies will be the clarion call for engineers in this century wherever they may practice.

Initiatives to respond include focused attention on disciplinary interfaces where new knowledge is increasingly created, fresh coupling with industry to exploit discovery, scholarly synergy between research and teaching, and the recognition of engineering as an integrative process.

The implementation of ideas through new products, systems, and services is the essence of engineering as a socially responsible profession. Done well, the creation of shared wealth with a respect for the quality of life is the result.

The ability to make connections among specialized areas of knowledge; to understand relationships among seemingly disparate discoveries, events, and trends; and to integrate them in ways that benefit the world community will be the hallmarks of modern engineers.

In building capacity, our intellectual mission must include the cultivation of each student's ability to bridge the boundaries between disciplines and organizations and make the connections that produce deeper insights.

And again in the context of Ortega, just as it is imperative to reach across disciplinary boundaries to construct the whole, it is equally important to integrate the intellectual and cultural capabilities of the nations of the world. With this understanding, we can recognize strengths to teach each other and capabilities we can learn from each other. This is the way successful partnerships work.

The U.S. National Science Foundation's mission is to always probe through the frontiers of knowledge in both science and engineering. From this vantage point, we can see across the boundaries of fields and disciplines. The connections become clear; the differences recede.

In that same way, all of us can step beyond our organizational boundaries to glimpse the larger picture of engineering leadership in the 21st century. We too will recognize the connections, and the differences will disappear.

I am confident that if we all work together we can take this beyond words to the deeds that will transform the concept of an engineer to meet the challenges of a new century.

Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.


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