The Keller Center — an engine of entrepreneurship and a bridge between the engineering school and non-engineers — is turning 10.
Founded in 2005, the center brings together students from different disciplines to use science and technology to solve societal challenges. Today it offers classes, a certificate program, workshops, a speaker series, internships, and a launch pad for student startups. It will celebrate its anniversary with a symposium Oct. 13.
“Part of the original mission was to serve as a nexus for those aspects of engineering education that didn’t fit the traditional educational setting — things that really cut across all of engineering and don’t really have a home in a single department,” said H. Vincent Poor *77, the center’s founding director and now the dean of the engineering school. “I don’t think that core mission has changed, but it has grown, and the interpretation of that mission has evolved over time as student interest has evolved.”
Originally known as the Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, the center was renamed in 2008 following a $25 million gift from Dennis Keller ’63, co-founder and retired chairman and CEO of DeVry Education Group, and his wife, Constance.
At the time the gift was announced, Keller said he hoped to increase the percentage of A.B. students who take at least one technology or engineering course from 60 percent to “virtually 100 percent.”
“All of us have a real requirement in our lives, in our families, and in our businesses to make good use of technology,” Keller told The Daily Princetonian.
Since the beginning, the center has worked to connect students across all disciplines through education, innovation, and entrepreneurship. In the Class of 2014, 238 students took at least one entrepreneurship course offered through the Keller Center; two-thirds of them majored in a department outside of the engineering school. Other students participate in the center’s certificate program in technology and society, choosing to focus on either information technology or energy.
“I think the Keller Center is a big part of making [the engineering school] a welcoming place to students outside of engineering,” Poor said. “And I think the career choices not only of our engineering students, but of other students as well, are much more entrepreneurial when [students] leave here.”
The center’s current director, electrical engineering professor Mung Chiang, is working to establish an internship program to connect students with startups in New York City — many led by alumni — beginning next summer.