"We need students to understand how the world has changed and be prepared to make contributions in a new way," said Dr. Paul Jacobs, Chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, in a private interview with me. Last week, Jacobs stood with President Clinton at Clinton Global America 2013 to announce a $20 million gift from his and his wife Stacey's private foundation to establish the new Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at the University of California Berkeley's College of Engineering. "The Jacobs Institute will greatly expand the role of design in engineering education at all levels and empower young engineers to design innovative solutions to society's biggest challenges," Jacobs said. Paul and Stacey are both graduates from UC Berkeley -- Paul from the College of Engineering.
"In the past, students knew how to iterate in developing software, but now they need to learn how to iterate new designs in hardware. We crossed a line when companies like Apple started to integrate art and technology. ... Today the best prepared students are going to need to be trained to work in interdisciplinary teams in order to design products that are both beautiful and manufacturable. Products that will their lives and the lives of other people," Jacobs explained.
Jacobs believes that by understanding what is possible, students will be inspired to fulfill their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, and engage in further education and careers where they can advance solutions to global challenges by integrating creativity and technology. He also believes that UC Berkeley provides a rich environment for global problem solving since it has a diverse student body including 25 percent women -- a high rate for an engineering school, graduates the highest number of female Ph.D.s in the United States, and fosters social consciousness.
Among the important global issues that people at his company are addressing is privacy. By the end of this year, Qualcomm is coming out with new devices that facilitate interactions, while building privacy and anonymity at the core of the system. With the new device, for example, you could make store purchases while ensuring your complete privacy and anonymity. Another device that Jacobs mentioned will alert you two weeks in advance if you will have a heart attack.
Jacobs agreed that Qualcomm is interested in graduates who are well trained in interdisciplinary teams. "Global teams, too," he said. He also shared his dream that graduates of the new Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation will be well prepared to be successful with new start-ups that will use Qualcomm. "We want to raise the level of the ocean... we build enabling technologies. If our partners are doing better, then they'll be more likely to adopt our products and technologies, and develop new things themselves. This drives the industry forward. People want to be part of something that's bigger than themselves. It's motivating. It helps all of us to work harder."
Preparing engineering students for global problem solving is good for business and good for the world -- motivating students in STEM education, preparing graduates for employment, advancing women, training people to find solutions to vital issues, and fostering global economic development.