US News’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2005, which
came out in May, featured an article on “Dilbert’s
Dilemma.” The article began as follows:
Poor Dilbert, armed with only a pocket
protector and a skinny strip of a tie, this sad little
engineer makes his way through a bewildering corporate
workplace, socially clueless in a nerd-hostile world.
Sure, he’s just a comic strip character, but
in engineering education, Dilbert represents the problem. ‘He’s
the stereotype that engineers have been saddled with
forever,’ says Albert Gray, executive director
of the National Society of Professional Engineers.
. . . It’s also an image that engineering schools
and professional societies across the country have
been trying to combat for the past several years.
Caroline Hsu, who authored the piece, reviews what
engineering schools across the country have been doing,
and concludes with
an upbeat assessment of the George R. Brown School of Engineering’s
In 1998, Rice University received a $5 million gift
to establish the Cain Project, a program dedicated to improving
communication skills in engineers and scientists. Through voluntary,
no-credit courses, faculty teach workshops that help grad students
develop writing and presentation skills. The thesis writing workshop
is perpetually over-enrolled; students don’t dare miss a
session for fear of permanently losing their seat to a wait-listed
candidate. And they are learning that better soft skills make better
Since the article was written, the Cain Project has expanded its
workshops for graduate students and now offers a Leadership and
Professional Development Program with over twenty workshops of
varying lengths as well as the thesis writing groups. It’s
nice to be recognized in a national guidebook to graduate education!
Project Is a 2004 Conference Sponsor
The Seventh National Writing across the Curriculum Conference
was held in St. Louis in May with support from Cornell University,
Washington University, nd Rice University’s Cain Project. The
Cain Project was host to the sixth national conference earlier in 2002.
The 2004 Conference attracted over 400 faculty from many disciplines
who are involved with teaching students about writing and presentations
in their courses.
The theme of the conference was “Writing across the Curriculum from an
International Perspective.” The Cain Project sponsored a video made up
of contributed photos and video footage from WAC programs across the world. Representatives
from universities from Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Americas participated
in the conference. The Cain Project has been providing new opportunities for
students to learn about international issues through sponsorship of “Preparing
to Communicate in Five Countries, Many Cultures” and participation in the
new Mayan Resorts Academic Conferences.