Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering, gave the keynote address at the 43rd Annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference today (Oct. 24) in Oklahoma City.

In her talk, "Enrollment Growth with Excellence: The 25 by 25 Initiative," Banks discussed Texas A&M's 25 by 25 initiative, which aims to increase access for qualified students to pursue engineering education at Texas A&M to an enrollment of 25,000 engineering students by 2025. The initiative was developed in response to the critical need to increase the engineering workforce of the state and the nation.

Banks outlined the initiative's guiding principles, which are to

  • Transform the educational experience to better prepare our student to engage in and meet the future needs of the engineering marketplace;
  • Increase accessibility to engineering education at all levels; and
  • Deliver engineering education cost effectively and affordably.

"The 25 by 25 initiative is not just about increasing enrollment," Banks said, "but also about providing better instruction and student opportunities. We will transform engineering education to mold the engineer of the future."

As dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering and holder of the Harold J. Haynes Dean's Chair in Engineering, Banks leads one of the largest engineering schools in the country, with more than 12,000 students. The Look College at Texas A&M consistently ranks among the nation's top public undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The Look College gained national attention in January when it announced its bold growth initiative to increase enrollment to 25,000 engineering students by 2025, more than doubling the enrollment of the third-largest engineering program in the nation. The initiative focuses on improving education and cost efficiency through technology integration and better utilization of facilities and resources.

Banks was previously the Bowen Engineering Head for the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University and the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor at Purdue. She received her B.S.E. from the University of Florida, M.S.E. from the University of North Carolina, and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University. For her research, Banks has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA, as well as industry and state government. She served as director of the EPA Hazardous Substance Research Center, associate director of the NASA Center for Advanced Life Support, and co-director of the 21st Century Center for Phytoremediation Research, all headquartered at Purdue.

Banks is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and is a licensed professional civil engineer in Indiana and Kansas. She has received numerous awards including the ASCE Petersen Outstanding Woman of the Year Award, ASCE Rudolph Hering Medal, Purdue Faculty Scholar Award, Sloan Foundation Mentoring Fellowship and the American Association of University Women Fellowship. She is the author or co-author of more than 150 journal articles, proceedings papers and book chapters, and has made more than 200 scholarly or technical presentations before professional and related groups. Banks has served as editor-in-chief for the ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineering and associate editor of the International Journal of Phytoremediation.

The FIE conference is sponsored by the Education Society and the Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Society for Engineering Education's (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division. FIE is one of the two major international engineering education conferences offered every year. More than 500 academic and industry representatives were expected at this conference. Participants included university presidents, college deans, department chairpersons, faculty in engineering and engineering technology, and industry leaders from throughout the country and the world.