CORVALLIS, Ore. – Raymond Pederson, a 1941 Oregon State University mechanical engineering alumnus who is unafraid to speak his mind, has pledged $1 million to his alma mater to help student engineers learn how to speak theirs.
Engineers are often stereotyped as people who can speak better to computers and machines than they can with humans. In actuality, successful engineers frequently work in groups and must know how to communicate well with a wide range of people, from other engineers and city planners to clients and potential investors.
“My experiences showed me that engineers who could explain their projects well were the ones who progressed, while those who were tongue-tied lagged in promotion,” said Pederson, who worked at Boeing for 25 years before going on to a second career in real estate investment.
Pederson, who now lives in Casa Grande, Ariz., added that when he was a student there were opportunities at Oregon State to learn better communication skills but only through English and speech courses offered outside of his major. His gift will establish the Raymond Pederson Engineering Communication Collaboratory in the OSU College of Engineering, which will provide support to implement new courses, seminars and other communication resources designed specifically for engineering students.
The Pederson gift will help further the College of Engineering’s drive to deliver the impact of the top engineering programs in the country, said Ron Adams, dean of College of Engineering.
“Creating engineering solutions to society’s problems is a team endeavor and success requires effective communication and collaboration skills in the workplace,” Adams said. “These are now essential skills, and thanks to the generosity and vision of Mr. Pederson, the innovative Communication Collaboratory will help give our graduates a competitive edge at graduation and throughout their careers.”
Although still in the development stages, preliminary plans for the Pederson Collaboratory include a graduate-level communication seminar, a “communication studio” with intensive coaching on written reports and speeches, and an undergraduate portfolio project that will span multiple engineering courses in which students generate a collection of written, oral, visual and electronic communication pieces that they can share with prospective employers.
The Pederson Collaboratory programs will also employ technology such as digital video, voice recognition software and other multi-media applications to help both undergraduate and graduate students become articulate and effective communicators. The new programs will start as pilot projects within the mechanical engineering department before expanding college-wide.