Podcast: Paul Johnson on Preparing Engineers for Impact

Paul C. Johnson studied chemical engineering at UC Davis and went on for a Ph.D. at Princeton. At Shell, he worked on big complex reclamation projects. Twenty-five years ago, rather than moving into corporate management, Johnson pivoted to academia. He taught at Arizona State and where he became dean and oversaw rapid growth of the engineering school. Working for ASU President Michael Crow, he learned to set aggressive goals and create productive partnerships.

As is the 17th president of the Colorado School of Mines (@coschoolofmines), Johnson is leading an aggressive agenda to solve the world’s challenges related to the earth, energy, and environment. He is also supporting faculty efforts to dramatically improve student learning experience across campus including more interactive and project-based learning and asking students to wrestle with issues of ethics and social responsibility.

In this interview, Johnson outlines 10 signs of progress enhanced student experience and expanded impact.

Key Takeaways:
[1:11] Paul speaks about his early education and why he decided to go to UC Davis for his B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering.
[3:30] What initially attracted Paul to work at Shell?
6:04] Did Paul get any exposure to Shell’s scenario planning (which it became widely known for)?
[6:49] What drove Paul’s career shift back to academia?
[7:50] What is it like to go to school today — and particularly at Mines?
[9:46] Who goes to school now? How has the student body changed over the years?
[11:23] About the complex issues and systems Mines’s graduates are getting into, and how Mines prepares them for that.
[15:45] Innovation often triggers a set of ethical issues or tough community choices. What role do engineers play in helping to inform the public dialogue about innovation?
[17:57] 40 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of focus on humanities or communication abilities in the curriculum — how has that changed today?
[19:14] What is Mines’s perspective on the subject of sustainability?
[21:33] What developments or coming innovations is Paul most excited about?
[25:35] What did Paul learn from Michael Crow at ASU?
[26:37] What does it mean to Paul that Mines is a part of the KEEN network?
[31:09] Having been with Mines for four years now, what is Paul particularly proud of that he has accomplished with the team so far?

Mentioned in This Episode:
Paul Johnson (LinkedIn)
Colorado School of Mines
Shell Development Company
Arizona State University
Michael Crow from ASU

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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