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Engineering Education: Appreciating the teacher in all of us

May 6th, 2019 by Tad Goetcheus

With national Teacher Appreciation Week upon us and the chance for students everywhere to intentionally show gratitude for the many lessons taught and dreams inspired by educators, I recently had a chance to step into a classroom as a guest lecturer and interact with the students who may soon be stepping into roles as engineers, geologists and hygienists themselves. HRP has long maintained strong relationships with institutions of higher learning, and our interactive partnership with Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. continues to grow since the school participated in our peer environmental auditing program more than a decade ago.

As our organizational relationship has evolved, professional relationships between HRP team members and the science department chair, professors and other university contacts have also grown. We have become a trusted resource for helping manage environmental compliance, but also recognized as experts in our field by these partner educators and valued for the insight we provide.

Dr. Venita Totten, a Gardner-Webb chemistry professor with an industry background, invited me to speak to several science classes this month about how their courses of study can translate into careers. What an honor to stand before these bright college students and share the innovative work our company is doing in various markets and the exciting opportunities that await them in our field. Many students are unaware of the unlimited opportunities available to them with a degree in science, and watching their eyes light up with future possibilities in environmental engineering and EH&S compliance was personally satisfying as I shared my career and the successes of several HRP team members and got a small glimpse of what classroom educators must experience daily.

With many working relationships developed during our successful peer audit program, HRP has since emerged as a leader in business/university collaboration, not only with Gardner-Webb, but with many universities and colleges across the country. As a company, we recognize the opportunity to help solve problems and further develop innovative ideas on how academia and industry can collaborate effectively together.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, companies are increasingly recognizing that if they are to attract the best and brightest talent they must create purpose-driven organizations aligned with values like meaningful work and social utility. Similarly, universities see their role extending beyond teaching and pure research to taking on social challenges and contributing to economic growth. At Boston University, they have even built their engineering program around the concept of creating “societal engineers” who are dedicated to using their engineering foundation to improve society, a concept that certainly aligns with our ultimate goal for the work accomplished by HRP.

Both industry and academia stand to benefit from long-term cooperation across the board. Most importantly, society will benefit from a stream of previously unimaginable advances — in life sciences, biomedical engineering, communications, environmental sciences, artificial intelligence, and more — that will vastly improve everyone’s life.

According to Venture Well, an organization devoted to innovation and entrepreneurship, industry partnerships give students and faculty valuable feedback and guidance. Universities know that some problems can’t be solved in isolation in a lab, and business feedback is key to taking an invention or product from conception to market, as well as for student training, skills development and eventually job placement.

In addition to our involvement with higher education institutions, HRP maintains a special focus on training that separates us from other firms as teachers ourselves. We have helped private and public sectors comply with state and federal regulations and meet training requirements for more than 30 years, and our trainers are experts at clarifying complicated and confusing regulations.

But as an HRP associate, whether you technically train our clients, speak in a college classroom, or even mentor a Boy Scouts group with their rock collections, I hope we all take on a mindset of both teaching others and learning from one another daily. Even though I only spent a few hours in the classroom at GWU last month, I strive to lead HRP as a mentor and educator in the office or field each day – mentoring colleagues and transferring knowledge to our clients with the hopes of helping both grow. I know I certainly learn from the skilled and talented individuals we’ve hired at HRP, and our company and lives are better because of each other. May we all work with the mind and heart of a teacher as we interact with colleagues, clients and the community daily, appreciating the profession.

Tad Goetcheus, PE, President/COO at HRP Associates, Inc.

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