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June 26, 2007

Purdue names director of EPICS

William Oakes
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William Oakes, an associate professor of engineering education at Purdue University, has been named director of Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS.

Oakes was co-director of EPICS from 1999-2006 and has been interim director since April 2006. His five-year term as director officially began in May.

"As co-director, Bill has played a crucial role in helping the Purdue EPICS program grow and develop to its current state," said EPICS co-founder Leah H. Jamieson, Purdue's John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. "He has been a key part of the national dissemination of EPICS and the development of the 18-university national and international EPICS program. His credentials in engineering service learning are without parallel."

Jamieson was EPICS director until she became interim dean in April 2006. She was selected as dean in August.

In the EPICS program, teams of undergraduates earn academic credit for multiyear, multidisciplinary projects that solve engineering and technology-based problems for community service and education organizations.

Jamieson and Edward J. Coyle, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, co-founded EPICS in 1995. The engineering-centered program involves 20 departments at Purdue, 29 local and Purdue partnerships and as many teams working on projects ranging from homelessness prevention to environmental protection to creating toys for children with disabilities. EPICS programs also now operate at 17 universities in the United States and one in New Zealand.

"We expect a record number of Purdue students to enroll in EPICS this fall," said Oakes, who also is leading a multiuniversity initiative to expand EPICS to high schools.

Enrollment for EPICS is expected to approach 400 in the fall, representing a record over the previous enrollment peak of 360 set in 2002.

EPICS courses are taught at all levels, with some students enrolled for their entire undergraduate educations.

Oakes earned a doctoral degree from Purdue in mechanical engineering in 1997, a bachelor of science degree and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University in 1985 and 1987, respectively. He worked for General Electric Aircraft Engines, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., from 1987 to 1992.

Oakes was selected as the first engineering educator to win the Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning in 2006, the most prestigious national award in service learning. Oakes was a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering's Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education in 2005 with Jamieson and Coyle. He also received the National Society of Professional Engineers Educational Excellence Award in 2004, Purdue's Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2002 and Purdue Engineering's Dean A.A. Potter Outstanding Teaching Award in 2001.

He has authored chapters in six textbooks, published more than 50 conference and journal papers on engineering education and has conducted dozens of faculty development workshops in service learning. He is a co-author of the recently published textbook "Service-Learning: Engineering in Your Community." He is an active member in the American Society for Engineering Education, serving as the chair for the Illinois/Indiana section, on the boards of the freshman programs and the educational research methods divisions and as a co-chair for the 2005 Frontiers in Education Conference. He also is an active member in the National Society of Professional Engineers. 

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Sources: Leah H. Jamieson, (765) 494 5346,

William Oakes, (765) 494-3892,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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