Engineering Unleashed

 9/21/2020  Miranda Holloway

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering is now a partner in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). 

The network is affiliated with the Kern Family Foundation, established by Robert D. Kern and Patricia E. Kern. Robert earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Illinois in 1947 before going on to found Generac, a leader in lightweight portable generators. 

KEEN is a network of colleges and universities that aims to train engineers to have an entrepreneurial mindset so that when they graduate, they can create personal, economic, and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work.  

“KEEN’s commitment to the entrepreneurial mindset is powerful, and it’s well-tuned to the interests of our engineering students,” said Chancellor Robert Jones. “Our students are looking to change the world with their ideas, and they expect creative programs that will help them to act as agents of change within existing organizations and to succeed when they launch companies. Joining KEEN will help us collaborate to develop new ways for our students to identify their passions and translate them into a lifetime of meaningful work.”  

Grainger Engineering’s partnership with KEEN is spearheaded by Andrew Singer, Associate Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Fox Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Jonathan Makela, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

Through this partnership, Grainger Engineering will help build and participate in shared KEEN curriculum resources, develop and implement programs on campus, and commit to advancing “the three C’s” of an entrepreneurial mindset (curiosity, connections, and creating value) to the broader engineering education community. 

“We are excited to partner with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering as they continue their long history of engineering excellence,” said John Heathcock, Senior Program Director of Entrepreneurial Engineering at the Kern Family Foundation. “Each year, this highly influential school graduates a large number of engineers equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, enabling them to create value for themselves, the economy, and society as a whole. In addition, Grainger Engineering’s Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education enables faculty to continue developing their teaching skillset and mindset to help graduate engineers that transform the world. As a KEEN partner we look forward to the great impacts that Grainger Engineering will make on their campus, across KEEN, and throughout the undergraduate engineering ecosystem.”

KEEN connects institutions to allow for collaboration, faculty training and development, and opportunities for students, faculty and leadership to make a difference in the engineering community.   

“As a land grant institution, we provide critical, relevant curricula and experiences while training students from a wide range of backgrounds to meet the challenges of the workforce of both the region and the world,” Singer said. “KEEN provides a strong and diverse network of educational collaborators through which the university can broaden its impact and reach, as well as collaborate in the curation of best practices and methods for inculcating, at scale, an entrepreneurial mindset in the next generation of engineers.” 

Membership in KEEN adds to the vibrant landscape of educational and entrepreneurship resources for students, faculty and staff at Illinois, with connections to the Technology Entrepreneur Center and the Innovation, Leadership & Engineering Entrepreneurship (ILEE) degree program, and to the EM skillset of opportunity, design and impact through the Siebel Center for Design. It also expands on the ever-growing list of faculty training and development programs, such as those offered through Grainger Engineering’s Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education (AE3).  “Partnering with KEEN not only provides a platform for accelerating the development and deployment of cross-college activities but also enables our faculty to think boldly and broadly across the engineering disciplines and educational missions,” Makela said. “We are excited by the opportunities afforded by such collaboration and look forward to bringing additional value in content and resources to KEEN.”

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