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Here they come. Can We build it?
Photo of Olga Pierrakos

Dr. Olga Pierrakos, Ph.D
Founding Professor, Founding Chair, Department of Engineering

Wake Forest University
This talk will be co-presented with Jim York

Agile, Higher Education, and Educating the Next Generation of Engineers

In 2017, 55 students embarked on pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree just as thousands of other engineering students across the nation did that fall. The difference this cohort faced was that their engineering program did not yet exist. Whereas most new programs have two to four years of planning, this new engineering program would be created just-in-time as the students progressed through their four year journey to become engineers. The founding team arrived on site just six weeks before the students and their goal was to reimagine engineering education in a liberal arts context and ensure the program could be accredited. This is a story of agility in higher education including both its successes and its sacrifices.


Dr. Olga Pierrakos served as the Founding Chair and Professor of the Wake Forest University (WFU) Department of Engineering from 2017 to 2022.  As a national thought leader in STEM education and innovative ecosystems, Olga led her team to reimagine and redefine engineering education with a vision to Educate the Whole Engineer and a commitment to the university mission of Pro Humanitate (For Humanity). The unprecedented diversity of the student and faculty body, as well as curricular innovation, were highlighted program strengths by the external accrediting body. Prior to joining Wake Forest University, Olga served as Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Undergraduate Education where she managed a $100 million dollar portfolio of investments in STEM education efforts. Prior to NSF, Olga served as a Founding Engineering Faculty of Engineering at James Madison University for nearly ten years. Olga has BS and MS degrees in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the joint program between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University.

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