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February 18, 2017



President Trump has yet to sign a draft executive order ending the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) measure, which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation. But aides have found two ways that the program could be halted anyway, the Los Angeles Times reports: One would be new legal guidance that details who is a priority for deportation. "If the Justice Department determines that DACA is not legal or is no longer a responsible use of prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security would be instructed to stop awarding and renewing work permits." Another route would be the courts. "A handful of governors are considering a challenge patterned on the 2014 lawsuit filed by several conservative state officials against the Obama administration’s expansion of deportation protections." Attorney General Jeff Sessions "could instruct his lawyers not to defend the program in court."

COURT BRIEF CITES DROP IN INTERNATIONAL APPLICATIONS:  The Association of American Universities has filed a legal brief in support of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's challenge to President Trump's travel ban affecting seven mostly Muslim nations. (The administration is rewriting the executive order following an appellate court decision that blocked its implementation.) AAU says the executive order "prevents visa-holding students, faculty and researchers from participating in the open academic exchange that is so vital to modern higher education and our national interests." It cites a report in Science that "[s]ome U.S. graduate programs in engineering . . . are seeing a sharp drop this year in the number of applications from international students" - declines of "as much as 30 percent from 2016 levels in some programs." Dartmouth Dean Joseph Helble writes in LinkedIn that engineering deans who met in Washington last week "realized that alarming reductions in applications from international students to graduate engineering programs are occurring throughout the U.S."

WILBUR ROSS CONFIRMATION ADVANCES: President Trump's nominee to head the Commerce Department "cleared a procedural hurdle Friday that sets up a confirmation vote for after lawmakers return from the week-long recess," CQ reports. A final Senate vote on the billionaire private-equity investor could come as early as February 27. Commerce includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Small Business Administration, which administers the Small Business Innovation Research/Technology (SBIR/STTR) Transfer program.

CONFIRMED: Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, 52-46. With the backing of the White House and GOP, he is expected "to chart a course for a smaller EPA that is more deferential to state environmental regulators," CQ reports. 

DeVOS TOUTS COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "highlighted the importance of community colleges in promoting vocational and technical training as a way to lower unemployment and fuel economic growth," the Associated Press reports. "Community colleges are a uniquely American national asset," DeVos said. "You are nimble, you are inclusive, you are entrepreneurial," she told leaders of the sector at a forum in Washington. See her remarks.

TUNE IN FOR A WBCAST of the National Science Board's February 21-22 meeting. The agenda shows a presentation on the second morning entitled "Engineering Feats Enable Cutting Edge Science." The two-day session will also include discussions of an upcoming companion brief to the Science and Engineering Indicators report on career pathways for Ph.D.s., the National Science Foundation's Big Ideas initiative, and the role of committees of visitors in merit review. 


MARS, MOON, OR BOTH? This was among questions pondered at a House Science Committee hearing on NASA's past and future. Harrison H. Schmitt, geologist, former Apollo 17 astronaut and U.S. senator, and adjunct engineering professor, suggested the space agency return to the moon as a good way to prepare for a manned mission to Mars: "Flying to the Moon and working there require similar deep space operational discipline that new generations of space managers, engineers and flight controllers will need to assimilate. Also, many of the same deep space technological capabilities will be needed." NASA's current plans don't call for a return to the moon's surface, although it could participate if "international partners or the commercial sector" want to go there, says Ellen Stofan, who stepped down as the agency's chief scientist last December. When it comes to low Earth orbit and the moon, "the 2020’s will be the decade of NASA moving out, and the private sector moving in," she says. In any case, NASA needs to face tough choices, warns former Goddard Spaceflight Center Director Thomas Young, because "there are too many potential paths competing for the available resources." The hearing occurred a day before the Senate passed the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act, which authorizes $19.5 billion for the space agency. Passage in the House appears likely. 

SCIENCE PANEL PRIORITIES: These include limiting spending on "late-stage commercialization programs" in favor of basic research at the Department of Energy;  STEM education initiatives; reauthorization of National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology programs, and major facilities reforms at NSF. Learn more.

A 'SEMBLANCE OF NORMALCY' is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's hope for the appropriations process in coming months, CQ reports. Congress will have its first chance with a supplemental spending request expected from President Trump to boost Pentagon funding, as well as final government funding for the current fiscal year. CQ sees cooperation from Democrats in the Kentucky Republican's quest as "unlikely."


Source for both graphics: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). Click here for interactive versions. 


"AN IMPORTANT, IF OVERLOOKED segment of the nation’s STEM workforce." That's what a National Academy of Engineering panel concludes about engineering technology, according to its long-awaited report. "Our own survey of employers . . . found that roughly one-third had never heard of the academic field called 'engineering technology education.'” The panel found that the proportion of black students earning 4-year degrees in ET "is almost three times the share of students earning 4-year degrees in engineering," but that women represent just 12 percent of ET degrees. It suggests market research to test a possible name change to "applied engineering." See a press release and read the report.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED - COMMUNITY SERVICE EVENT AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE: ASEE's Community Engagement Division (CED), in collaboration with the Toy Adaptation Program at Ohio State University (OSU), and is organizing the Third Annual service event for all ASEE members. "During this event, we will reverse engineer everyday toys to allow children with special needs to enjoy and use the toys." Participants will also have the opportunity to talk with community and campus partners to learn how to bring this program to their own institutions. Questions: Please contact Malini Natarajarathinam at malini@tamu.edu. 

PUBLIC POLICY COLLOQUIUM PRESENTATIONS NOW ONLINE: Click here for all materials from the two-day meeting of engineering deans.


The annual ASEE Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) provides an opportunity for engineering deans- and only deans- to gather and discuss the crucial issues facing their schools, colleges, and profession. For a few days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders, and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates, and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society. Social activities and plenty of time for conversation encourage the cultivation of relationships and an intensely rewarding experience.

Early registration rates end March 10, 2017. Click here for more information.

PRISM PODCASTS: This new feature, produced by Nathan Kahl, debuted with a report on the Mobile Virtual Player, developed by students at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Listen to this and subsequent podcasts here.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.