What should happen to a Tesla battery after it dies?

How should lawmakers address the effects of social media on children? 

How do you eliminate biases in computer algorithms? 

These are big questions that require big solutions — and the college’s engineering degree has Stonehill students poised to take them on. 

The newly launched undergraduate program is among the first of its kind in the nation to center on humanistic engineering, a holistic approach to the design and implementation of technology that prioritizes the well-being of individuals and communities. 

“We believe that our students will be better engineers if we teach them to ask questions, communicate with people and understand problems,” says Hassan Bajwa, the program’s founding director. “They have an understanding of the community and society as a whole.”

Students in the program can choose to pursue their degree in one of two engineering disciplines: computer or electrical. The curriculum combines a core of engineering courses with two humanistic engineering courses, Sustainable Engineering Design and Engineering for Public Good. A two-semester capstone project rounds out the course of study. 

In addition, on-campus labs for circuits, electronics and photonics, as well as a maker space, provide students with the real-world resources that a rigorous STEM degree requires. 

We wanted to develop a unique program different from many other colleges,” says Bajwa. “From the first day, we were thinking about how to integrate sustainable and humanistic values into and across our curriculum. Being in a college founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, we have a focus on heart just as much as mind.”

He adds: “By giving students the opportunity to understand the whole system, they also are developing the skills to become leaders in their fields, wherever they go.”

In the first cohort of students pursuing the degree are Farah Lafnoune and Brenda Msallem, both members of the Class of 2025 — or as Bajwa describes them, the “brave students” who chose Stonehill even though the engineering program is new. 

“In high school, I took robotics and computer coding courses, and I enjoyed both of them,” says Msallem. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I combine the best of both worlds and put them together?’ I wanted to study at a smaller school, in a close environment where I could get to know the professors,” she says. “This major was perfect for me, and especially at this school. It checked off all my boxes.”

Class of 2025 engineering majors Farah Lafnoune, left, and Brenda Msallem collaborate on a project.

Adds Lafnoune: “We’re taught about both hardware and software in this program, which is the beauty of it. We get to do a lot of hands-on projects in addition to our theoretical projects, which makes the major interesting. For example, we got to find a problem we have in our community on campus and propose an idea to solve it.”

The degree’s curriculum, combined with hands-on experience, has Stonehill students well positioned for their future professions — with the college’s engineering faculty helping lay the groundwork well before graduation day. 

“It is extremely important to us that we help our students get internships,” says Bajwa. “We have a close-knit community that offers them a lot of value. Most of them have [had] two internships before they graduate.”

Those same professional networks — as well as those within the broader Stonehill alumni community — continue to provide students with invaluable support and connections as they officially launch their careers. 

“We regularly get requests from our alumni, who ask, ‘Can you send me a few good students?’” says Bajwa. “They know how valuable our degree is and how good our students are.”

He continues: “I had a conversation with a leading industry executive who told me that if they get a resume from Shai [Simonson, professor of computer science], they don’t interview that student ― they directly hire that student, because they know that student is going to be good.”

Could there be any stronger endorsement than that?

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