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In the Spotlight : Dr. Williams Oakes

Article by Sheetal Sohoni.

“It makes sense to seek protection by reinventing ourselves before someone else decides we are dispensable” 

According to an article published in The Financial Times Limited, Masters in Management series, one should plan for five careers in a lifetime. According to the author, work is impermanent-reinvention is rational. Dr. William (Bill) Oakes always believed in reinventing and keeping up with the ever-changing world. He decided to quit his well-paying industry job and pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. It was a gam- ble, but it paid off well for him. Today, Bill Oakes is a world-renowned figure, and is recognized as a global leader in engineering education research and community-engaged education. He has been an active voice for supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning in engineering education. 

After completing his PhD at Purdue, Bill worked as a visiting assistant professor for a year at the same university. He was soon hired as an Assistant Professor of Freshmen Engineering at Purdue. He got involved with Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), and became co-director of EPICS, and eventually director of the program. Through his hard work and commitment, Bill has spread the EPICS program across the globe. Bill has been involved with IUCEE since its inception in 2007, and has created an IUCEE-EPICS partnership. Through this initiative, he has travelled extensively to India to promote active learning, and project based engineering education. As part of his work for EPICS, Bill has been visiting universities and colleges to mentor and help institutions. When asked to comment on the IUCEE-EPICS partnership, Bill said: “IUCEE-EPICS partnership has helped in starting a serious dialogue about project based learning and active learning among engineering colleges in India, and this will definitely help in promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning in India.” 

Bill has worked extensively with students from different colleges and universities in India and the rest of the world. He believes that Indian students have potential in finding appropriate solutions for global challenges. When enquired further about some issues or challenges of students, he said that there is a general tendency to look for issues and problems at a global level, instead of solving issues involving us at our home level, street level, and region level. He also stressed the idea of learning and gaining insight from people around you. According to him, these people will help us in not only realizing issues and problem, but also in finding appropriate solutions. Bill has the following advice for students: – Don’t get disheartened by failure. Use it as an opportunity to move forward. Select a field that you are totally committed to. Give your best, do your research before proposing solutions. – Don’t be impatient for reaching somewhere. Use the journey to learn, reinvent, and grow. 

Dr. William Oakes has become an integral part of IUCEE ecosystem. He is strong-willed, committed, and a great teacher to learn from.