Traditional engineering education is a technical journey, but SMU engineering students also will tap creativity, adaptability and ethics to prepare for leadership through the new Hart Center for Engineering Leadership.
Dallas business and philanthropic leaders Linda and Mitch Hart are providing a generous gift to fund the center in the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. The concept for the multifaceted program emerged from growing evidence that successful, contemporary engineering leaders rely on a variety of skills that go beyond applied math and science.
Approximately 750 undergraduate students in the Lyle School, including about 250 first-year students, are participating in the program this semester. Hart Center programs also are available to graduate students.
“This project has special meaning for both Linda and Mitch, who have a passion for promoting leadership,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The Linda and Mitch Hart Center for Engineering Leadership will prepare all of our students at the Lyle School to succeed with a strong combination of technical, management, communication and social skills essential for leadership and collaboration.”
The Hart Center works with faculty across the campus to provide focused curricula and personal and team experiences to develop the leadership skills of future engineers. For example, the engineering student who needs to build confidence for formal presentations may be guided toward a theater class offered through SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. A business plan competition offered in collaboration with the Cox School of Business can introduce students to working with a multidisciplinary team.
“Over my lifetime, I have learned that leadership is not defined by a position,” said Mitch Hart. “A leader is someone people choose to follow – someone who can make a difference. It is my great pleasure to work with the Lyle School to provide students the tools they need to develop their leadership skills and maintain engineering’s role as a driver of economic growth.”
“Today’s engineers will be called upon not only to excel in their fields and be persuasive, but also to interpret their expertise in both business and public settings, contribute their talents to civic issues, and consider the ethical dimensions of problems and solutions,” said Linda Hart. “This Center will add tremendous value to an SMU engineering education by connecting Lyle students to faculty from a variety of non-engineering disciplines who will help hone their leadership skills.”
Housed in the Palmer Engineering Leadership Complex in the Lyle School’s new Caruth Hall, the Hart Center builds on the current co-op and internship programs that have long been a foundation in the Lyle School, adding student participation in leadership seminars and workshops, the business plan competition, community engagement projects, innovation competitions and mentoring relationships. Career fairs, mock interviews, a series of debates on engineering ethics and formal, videotaped presentations made in an executive boardroom will prove invaluable as students prepare to enter the workforce.
“This unique program is key to the expanding role of engineers in our economy and society,” said Lyle School Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “Our engineers will be able to work across disciplines, cultures and management styles to get things done – an absolute necessity to maintain our nation’s competitiveness.”
Linda and Mitch Hart have founded, supported and enhanced many business and educational ventures, including Hart Group, Inc.; RMAX, Inc.; the Hart Global Leaders Forum at SMU; the SMU Hart eCenter; and, most recently, SMU’s Hart Center for Engineering Leadership. Linda and Mitch Hart have each served as board chairman of SMU’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and both continue on the board of directors of that series.
Linda Hart, a graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, is chairman of Imation Corp., a global technology company focused on storing, protecting and connecting a digital world, and vice chairman, president and CEO of Hart Group, Inc. Past chairman of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Association, she is a current member of the board of the Dallas Opera. She has been an active leader in The Dallas Citizens Council, The Dallas Forum, The Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the Texas National Research Laboratory Commission, the International Women’s Forum Leadership Foundation and the Dallas Women’s Foundation. She is a trustee and member of the executive committee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., and is former chairman and current ex officio member of the Legal Advisory Committee to the New York Stock Exchange. She serves on a variety of other corporate and civic boards, including the executive boards of the Dedman School of Law and Cox School of Business.
Mitch Hart, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, has been an SMU trustee and was co-chairman for the Dedman College Campaign Committee during SMU’s last fundraising campaign. He is chairman of Hart Group, Inc.; founding director and former chairman of the Episcopal School of Dallas; and a former trustee and trustee emeritus of Duke University. In 1985, he endowed the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, and both Harts served on the Institute’s board. A member of the World Presidents’ Organization, Chief Executives Organization and the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, he serves on many other business and civic boards. He is a member of SMU’s Campaign Leadership Council, and the Executive Board and Campaign Steering Committee for the Lyle School of Engineering.
The Harts’ gift counts toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which seeks resources for student quality, faculty excellence and academic programs and the campus experience.