College of Engineering Dean Takes on ASEE Presidency
Doug Tougaw ’05 MBA, Ph.D., P.E., dean of the Valparaiso University College of Engineering, has had a twenty-year long relationship with American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). During those decades, he has filled multiple leadership roles ranging from section chair for Illinois and Indiana, zone chair for the Midwest and Southeast, and vice president for finance. Now, in 2023, Dean Tougaw has taken the reins as the organization’s president.
“It’s a heavy responsibility, but one that I’ve been preparing for the past 20 years,” Dean Tougaw says. “The goal is to find ways to strengthen the education that is offered to our young engineering professionals. It’s to provide support to the faculty and staff who help to teach our engineering students.”
ASEE is a nonprofit organization that encourages excellence in engineering education through policies and programs that enhance professional opportunities for professors, deans, and department chairs across the nation. Founded in 1893, the organization holds an annual national conference with a new location each year as well as more regional events, webinars, and training activities.
In 2022, Dean Tougaw was named president-elect of the organization, a role that involves working directly under the current president to prepare for taking on the job the following year. As president, Dean Tougaw is responsible for navigating the organization through a time of rapid change in engineering education and higher education overall.
“We have to find ways to respond to that environment,” he says. ““We’re facing challenges of enrollment, we’re facing challenges of demographics and diversity, but those challenges are the same across the country. We as an organization can find ways to support faculty and staff across the entire nation.”
One example of a major change facing engineering education is the emergence of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) software. Dean Tougaw believes that the imperative of ASEE and educators everywhere is not to simply try and ban AI outright, but to find ways to incorporate it into classrooms in a way that does not undermine a student’s education.
Possibly the greatest strength of ASEE is the opportunity it gives national scholars to learn directly from their more experienced peers. One of Dean Tougaw’s major goals as president is to enhance the organization’s systems for pairing new members with colleagues that can act as mentors.
“ASEE has a lot of mentoring opportunities already,” he says. “The two ways I would like to strengthen that are to find ways to unify those opportunities, make them more cohesive, and to provide new opportunities. We have new faculty who join every year and faculty who are in the industry without mentors. ASEE is perfectly positioned to provide mentorship to those young faculty and to new department chairs and deans.”
As president, Dean Tougaw is heavily involved in planning the 2024 ASEE National Conference and Exposition, which will take place in Portland, Oregon in June. In addition to overseeing planning, he will have multiple opportunities to speak to the national audience of engineering educators present.
In addition to providing education and networking opportunities to others, Dean Tougaw has benefited enormously from the sharing of ideas and practices that come with being an ASEE member. As a result, Valpo engineering students have seen their programs enhanced by what the organization has to offer.
“I’m able to see a much more global scope, a broader vision, of what the engineering industry faces. From the presentations I’ve seen, I always bring great ideas home,” Dean Tougaw says. “If I can come home with three to five ideas for ways I can improve my own teaching, then that was a very successful conference.”
Being president of the organization also raises Valparaiso University’s credibility in the eyes of the national engineering education community.
“It really does raise the profile of Valparaiso University,” says Dean Tougaw. “It helps a lot of students who otherwise wouldn’t have known about us at least know the name. They’ll be able to say ‘that’s a leading school in engineering education.’”
Dean Tougaw is not the only ASEE member in the Valparaiso University College of Engineering, which has, in fact, earned recognition from the ASEE for the percentage of faculty members in the organization. Their involvement is a major benefit to all engineering students at the University, and goes a long way towards putting Valpo engineering in the national spotlight. As president, Dean Tougaw is also embodying the core value of leadership described in Uplift Valpo: Our Beacon for the Journey Forward.