Thayer School of Engineering: A training ground for Dartmouth’s keen entrepreneurs

One of the oldest engineering schools in the United States, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth is a place where creativity, collaboration and innovation thrive.

Though called Dartmouth College, Dartmouth is actually a university with a strong undergraduate institution, a postgraduate school, and professional schools in engineering, business, and medicine. Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth offers natural beauty and a wealth of outdoor activities in a region with high-tech startups and easy access to New York and Boston.

With research strengths in engineering medicine, energy and complex systems, Thayer School of Engineering has one of the nation’s most the entrepreneurial faculty, with 33 percent of professors having founded companies to turn their research discoveries into useful applied technologies.

And, as the first university in the US to graduate a majority female undergraduate class—and the Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program nearing gender parity—this institution is shaking up an industry traditionally dominated by men.

The MEM program is co-taught by Professors and faculty from the Tuck School of Business, one of the most highly ranked business institutions in the US. Preparing engineers for leadership positions in companies ranging from large corporations to small startups, the MEM program trains students in data analytics, product management and entrepreneurship. The 15-month program includes an internship so students can apply their engineering management skills to a real-world business problem before they graduate. The internships, in companies such as Amazon, Tesla and Acer, often lead to job offers. A recent program review revealed that Thayer’s MEM graduates consistently graduates consistently perform within the top 20% of their peer group and often rise faster to leadership positions.

Thayer’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree offers a program option for students with a keen eye for entrepreneurship: the PhD Innovation Program – the nation’s very first to prepare doctoral candidates for building an enterprise based on technical innovation. The Program Director, Professor Eric Fossum, is the visionary mind behind the CMOS image censor – a revolutionary feature of contemporary photography – and also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the field’s highest honor. The PhD Innovation Program also offers a track in Surgical Innovation, which preparing students for careers in original surgical technology research, with an emphasis on innovations aimed at improving the safety and outcomes of surgical procedures. Surgical Innovation students have access to experienced clinician-scientists and state-of-the-art operating rooms. The Surgical Innovation option is directed by Professor Keith Paulsen, a leading researcher in medical imaging.

The school’s founder, Sylvanus Thayer, who pioneered engineering education in the United States, promoted engineering in the frame of liberal arts, believing this served as the best possible preparation for students to face and solve the world’s most complex issues.

The Dartmouth difference is one community, no departments,” the school website notes. “Expertise from across the engineering disciplines converge to enhance innovation. People here share ideas, challenges, and inspiration and push each other to solve pressing global problems[.]”

This exclusive non-departmental focus facilitates camaraderie and co-operation across multiple disciplines. Here, students have access to all members of faculty – all of whom are dedicated to both teaching and research – a perk that extends to staff throughout Dartmouth, including at the Tuck School of Business, Geisel School of Medicine, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN).

DEN services include strategic advice, one-to-one guidance, networking opportunities, and assistance with the construction of crucial company infrastructure, plus locating office space. On top of this, the student-designed and managed DEN Innovation Center and New Venture Incubator provide a flexible workspace where students have access to cutting-edge resources, connections and experiences.

Thayer School encourages entrepreneurship at the most fundamental level, harnessing this process to translate research findings into technologies that positively influence the world. The DEN represents a focal point of the school’s entrepreneurship strategy, allowing Dartmouth students to gain fluency in enterprising skills.

Dartmouth alumni are among the most loyal in the world, known to take a keen interest in their fellow students and provide valuable career connections. And while a third of Thayer’s faculty have launched successful companies, an impressive number of undergraduate and postgraduate students pursued their own, driven by the guidance of their experienced professors. But Thayer’s culture of innovation seeps through every facet of education, with a large number of students also patenting ground-breaking inventions. Everywhere you turn in this world-class school, participants are merging the boundaries of business and engineering.

All these achievements, and so many more, have combined to land the Thayer School the US National Academy of Engineering’s top pedagogical award – the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education – granted for their expert integration of entrepreneurial training at every level of study.

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