By Wesley Whitaker
U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster ’78 of New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District visited Thayer School of Engineering on January 22 to highlight the importance of integrating entrepreneurship into higher education and strengthening STEM education in schools.
Kuster’s visit came two weeks after Thayer School professors were awarded the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. The prize recognized Dartmouth’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program for incorporating entrepreneurship into all levels of the engineering curriculum—from the undergraduate through the doctoral level—to prepare students for technology leadership.
“The Thayer School of Engineering has a very strong integration model that promotes working relationships between entrepreneurs and the educational system,” Kuster told a group of faculty and students as she described efforts to strengthen New Hampshire’s economy and foster entrepreneurial activity in both academia and the private sector.
“I’ve been visiting dozens of New Hampshire businesses to try and look at the interface where public policy can help both private-sector entrepreneurs and the state’s educational system to enhance innovation opportunities and create job opportunities,” Kuster said.
“We actually have job openings here in New Hampshire, and our unemployment rate is down to 5.1 percent, which is extraordinary. But what I’ve found is that we’re not graduating people with the skills needed for the jobs that are open,” she said.
“Both southern New Hampshire and the Connecticut River Valley have a great tradition of manufacturing, and in recent years this tradition has transitioned into advanced manufacturing. The problem is that most people in our workforce don’t have a STEM education or the engineering background needed to move into these open jobs.”
Kuster graduated from Dartmouth in 1978 with a degree in Environmental Policy before receiving a JD degree from Georgetown. Her son, Travis Kuster ’14, is an engineering major.
Kuster’s visit included a tour of Professor Jason Stauth’s power electronics research lab and Thayer School’s student project labs and machine shop. Among the hands-on projects she viewed: her son’s engineering design work on a security and charging system for a personal transport vehicle.
Kuster noted that she hadn’t realized that some 750 Dartmouth students are pursuing engineering degrees. “That they want to make the world better for people is very inspirational,” she said.