SEAS Radically Alters Gateway Course (Updated)

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Sean Zimmermann reports:

Since 1994, first-year Columbia engineers have taken Gateway Lab, formally “ENGI E1102: Design fundamentals using the advanced computer technologies.” But starting next year with the Class of 2015, Gateway will cease to exist in its current form.

Bwog has learned that starting in Fall 2011, instead of Gateway, freshmen engineers will take a survey course covering all the engineering disciplines. Under one possible plan, instructors would give weekly engineering departmental presentations and teach basic engineering skills, like interpretation of experimental data. The new course would potentially include lab work and reserve a single week for studying engineering management. But one thing is for sure: the new course will be led by the beloved David Vallancourt of Electrical Engineering and Fred Stolfi of Mechanical Engineering; Jack McGourty and Promiti Dutta, the previous instructors and pioneers of the Gateway curriculum, will no longer direct the class.

The curriculum and specific details for the course are still being drafted, but this change has officially been cleared by administration officials. Professor Vallancourt told Bwog, “One of our most important guiding principles is to focus on exciting the incoming students about real engineering. We will try as best we can to make this course fun, informative, and useful in subsequent engineering studies.”

We have not received information about whether this decision to restructure such a pivotal aspect of the freshman engineering curriculum has been clearly presented to accepted SEAS ‘15ers, who have until May 1 to decide if they want to come to Columbia.

Bwog will continue updating this story as we learn more.

Update, 4/27 10:25 pm: After contacting the Office of the Dean, the following statement was released to Bwog by the Dean. The Dean’s Office emphasizes how the plan outlined above is only one option currently being considered, and people familiar with this possible solution reiterate that it is not intended to merely be a “light” survey course.

As part of our regular process of evaluation for every class, we have been looking at the Gateway class, assessing input from students, alumni of the class, and from faculty involved to ensure the course curriculum fits the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s engineers and is consistent with our educational philosophy. As we refine the course content to meet these needs, we will build on the pillars of Gateway, its socially responsible engineering and applied science projects and rigorous pedagogy integrating the engineering fundamentals with a project-based, hands-on experience that will enable our students to lead the way in developing solutions to the challenges society will ask them to address in their career.

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  1. WOW  

    Vallancourt & Stolfi for McGourty & Dutta?? WHAT A TRADE! I'm jelly of the all the freshies coming in from now on.

    • Anonymous

      I think you meant "McGourty & Dutta for Vallancourt & Stolfi" but YES. There is an academic God and he does indeed watch over us...

    • Good Job to Sean  

      Zims for doing that long ass piece on how Gateway sucks last year. I'm pretty sure his rabble-rousing moved things along.

      Now if only SEAS gets rid of McGourty from its Entrepreneurship Program we'll be free of the scourge

  2. just had my final gateway presentation  

    fml. so close...

  3. Wow

    Maybe columbia will produce actual engineers now rather than scare them into finance like it usually does.

  4. Seas Alum

    Thank god. Gateway (and specifically McGourty) was one of my worst experiences at Columbia.

  5. Anonymous  

    im so mad this doesnt apply to us...gateway was the biggest fucking waste of time..and i love vallancourt....lucky frosh

  6. Anonymous  

    Frontiers of Engineering?

  7. Anonymous  

    Gateway was a colossal piece of time-wasting shit, but I got to pick my group members (who were great) and we had a blast just hanging out and making stuff up for our project. Sounds like these poor froshies are going to have to do actual work for a change...sucks for them.

    Also, how the hell are McGourty (psychology degree) and Promiti (who knows what degree, she seems like one of those career students) qualified to teach any engineering class???

  8. SEAS '07  

    OMG, I graduated SEAS 4 years ago, and I had McGourty and Dutta as instructors back in '03. What about that ridiculous sketchy dude Alex whatever. Is he still there?

  9. Anonymous

    finally, some positive change in the SEAS curriculum.

  10. Anonymous

    With that said, I do hope they keep Jose.


    I need you right now.

  11. Anonymous

    Ain't that a bitch

  12. NEXT STOP  


  13. Anonymous


  14. I'm Me  

    This is terrible news for the freshman! David Vallancourt will turn this into a real class, no longer centered on how well you could BS papers.

    When I took Gateway, the stars were completely aligned in my favor - super easy TA, Jose's easy modeling assignments with the video podcasts, and an easy project got me an A in a 4.0 credit class. I <3 Gateway

  15. Anonymous

    Geez, finally. Graduated a few years ago, and what a waste of time that class was.

    That class assigned "engineering" projects to recent high schoolers with no engineering coursework under their belts, and then only taught worthless skills like Maya (a visual graphics program, NOT a CAD program) so we could make a flashy presentation to wow all the parents of incoming freshman. I didn't learn a single useful skill in there.

  16. Nate ESC  

    Hmmm... It will be interesting to see what changes make it to the Fall 2011 Gateway class for the new to-be engineers.


  17. Anonymous  

    I love Vallancourt! Lucky freshmen (and following batches)!

  18. MECE 2010

    Stolfi is the man! And Vallancourt is Awesome too!

  19. Anonymous  

    they should abolish frontiers and make these kids take lithum so they know how we feel -.-

  20. but what about  

    JOSEEEEE. that man was the shit. extrude extrude extrude.

  21. No longer  

    must the admins lie about the usefulness of their polluted gem. Vallancourt and Stolfi will make this a worthwhile course. And instead of joining the engineering classes through the mutual hatred of the course and its instructors, we might actually have a cohesive class formed out of positive shared experiences.

    Bro, I am soo jelly.

  22. CC to SEAS Transfer  


  23. Anonymous

    YES! YES! YES!

    Wish they had done this earlier. Vallancourt is the best.

  24. Anonymous  

    Can we PLEASE get rid of Frontiers of Science, aka the second worse class I've ever taken in my life including elementary school.

  25. xXDVFanBoixX  



    thank you jesus! This was much needed

  27. 4 words, two tasks  

    bwog, interviews now pleeeeeeeeeeease

  28. Agh  

    Gateway was the absolute worst experience I've had at Columbia. Learning a graphics program as opposed to any real computer science, spending money on physically building a piece of shit product that is seen by no one (not even Jack McGourty, because he never came to our class except for once when he said we were all disorganized and lazy and that he gets 10 emails a minute) and being talked down to by a bunch of career-less, miserable morons...what a waste of time.

  29. Fellow SEAS Students  

    Sailors of the SEAS: This is a rally call for all of you, put support behind this class. Offer any resources you can put up, whether personal or through clubs, to help Vallancourt & Stolfi make this class beyond epic. Even if it is a letter to the dean expressing your excitement over a new, better age in this school. Make sure there's no question they see this is the right choice

  30. seas  

    ...god damn car jack.

  31. SEAS '11  

    Looking back as a senior, sure the experience of Gateway was awful while we were doing it .. but who can hate on a class that churned out 500 "primary facilitators" a semester? Let's be real, the class was easy to bs and talk up on a resume as more than what it was.. which was admittedly an absolute waste of time/resources and a general annoyance. But Idk, in lieu of actual engineering knowledge freshman and sophomore year, being able to make up stories about leadership/teamwork in gateway got me multiple well-paying internships.

    I think they should have left the class as is, but just replaced McGourty with someone who actually cares and shifted the modeling focus from Maya (no one uses that crap besides Jose?) to AutoCad/Solidworks.

    • a bit too true  

      the class got me some internships too. it also (gasp) taught me a lot about teamwork and leadership. I do hope the new class has some kind of teamwork portion, and potentially a pseudo-client driving a project of some kind. Defining a spec by talking to a user, and then building to spec is an incredibly important skill.

    • i got a job too

      in my interview they kept wanting to talk about this "gateway project."

      the class isn't the problem. its jack and maya. jack gets his jollies talking about his emailing and maya is just a waste of time. so long jack and gfys.

    • Anonymous  

      Vallancourt worked at Bell Labs and TI and Stolfi worked at Xerox and Phillips, so both of the have actual experience working as engineers. Plus Stolfi teaches ME senior design, which actually does what gateway advertises to the prospies. So this change will likely accomplish what you are proposing.

    • Fellow SEAS '11  

      If you got internships by bullshitting about fucking Gateway, more power to you I guess. Meanwhile, I'll be doing real engineering. BS only gets you so far in the world of engineering. Way to continue to fuck the system, bro.

      • Anonymous  

        yeah, hell be making more $ than you and doing something more iteresting. go work in a lab, n00b

      • SEAS '11  

        What are you even saying? My point was that Gateway can be a useful topic of conversation for interviews to make you stand out, especially as an underclassman with no engineering coursework under your belt.. at that stage anything you talk about is going to be BS more or less. In what way does that imply that I BS'ed my way through anything else?

        Obviously I had other solid credentials on my resume, and when I actually undertook the internships I proved my worth. Gateway just helped open the door early on. If I didn' t know my shit I wouldn't have gotten an offer from a top defense contractor.. but maybe one day I can be a "real engineer" like you! LOL

  32. Anonymous  

    They should also re-examine some of the pre-professional courses for first/second-year SEAS...

  33. Anonymous  

    Vallaincourt is the best professor I've had at Columbia.

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