Preparing Students for the Design and Technology Innovation Roles of Tomorrow

12/5 Pratt School of Engineering

Duke launches a new Master of Engineering in Design and Technology Innovation

Preparing Students for the Design and Technology Innovation Roles of Tomorrow

New, transformative technologies are dramatically reshaping the status quo in numerous domains.

Tools based on large language models are redefining the role of customer service, for example, with numerous firms shifting customer service agents to higher-value work while chatbots automate responses to other inquiries. Meanwhile, virtual reality systems are changing the nature of “hands-on education” in fields from welding to aircraft maintenance, empowering trainees to learn faster and on demand. 

Besides impacting these technology fields and others, such rapid advances are also swiftly providing opportunities for business and societal impact. In a recent report, McKinsey & Company even went as far as to call this period uniquely “fast-moving, highly interdependent and complicated.”

With these challenges in mind, Duke Engineering is launching the new Master of Engineering in Design and Technology Innovation.

Applications are now open for fall admission. 

“All of this makes human-centered and ethical innovation much more important—and much more challenging,” said Vivek Rao, executive-in-residence at Duke Engineering and executive director of the new master’s degree program. “We are at an unprecedented moment where rapid technological change and increasingly complex global business and social challenges are redefining what it means to deliver innovation and to be an innovator.”

Design is central to the program.

“Design isn’t just about making stuff, engineering products or beautiful form,” Rao said. “It offers a human-centered mindset for solving complex, open-ended challenges—exactly the kinds of challenges that Duke Engineers will be asked to lead and solve in their careers.

But design is only part of the program, Rao continued, “Technology, too, is rapidly changing. Tomorrow’s leaders need to be ready today to experiment with, critically evaluate and ultimately incorporate emerging technologies into their work.” 

Technology is rapidly changing. Tomorrow’s leaders need to be ready today to experiment with, critically evaluate and ultimately incorporate emerging technologies into their work. 

Vivek Rao Executive Director, Master of Engineering in Design and Technology Innovation

Positioned within Duke’s rare combination of leading programs in law, ethics, business and policy, the new program will provide exposure to issues extending far beyond the technology driving these changes. Business and social impact are also a key focus of the degree.

“Most importantly, design and technology aren’t for their own sake,” Rao said. “In the program, we emphasize how we can blend both to deliver ethical business and social impact, something that is very important to our mission at Duke.” 

The three-semester Duke Design and Technology Innovation (DTI) masters seeks to blend design frameworks and innovation processes with the latest in technology prototyping tools and emerging technologies to inspire business and social impact.

Clay Braxton, IBM design program manager and Duke adjunct professor, emphasized the appeal of this combination. “I think that that intersection between technical thinking and the human element of design thinking is incredibly exciting,” Braxton said. “I think the marriage between those methodologies and types of thinking will inspire new ways of doing innovation work.”

The program is anchored by a design innovation studio sequence, in which students will practice design and technology innovation methods in the context of a real-world project; a technology core sequence, in which students will develop fluency in working with technologies focused on tangibility, interaction, and data; and a design ethics core class, in which students question and understand the implications of decisions they make as innovators. Management courses round out the core, and electives allow students to craft the degree program to serve their particular career goals.

Our new Duke DTI master’s students are going to be a great asset to Design Climate, as their expertise in design and innovation will be invaluable to our interdisciplinary teams.

Judy Ledlee Executive Director, Duke Design Climate

“An important focus of our Institute is educating future technical leaders on how to innovate,” said Jeff Glass, the Hogg Family Director of Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship at Duke. “The blend of design and technology that the Duke DTI program promises will uniquely unlock our students’ ability to innovate while enabling them to drive both business and social impact.” 

Duke DTI adds to an already vibrant design and innovation ecosystem at Duke with which students can engage.

Students will have access to participate in extracurricular programming such as the Christensen Family Center for Innovation’s Product Lab, where groups of students work to develop technology and digital products for internal and external stakeholders. Another example is an exciting partnership with Design Climate, a pioneering two-semester design course at Duke that matches student teams with clients to innovate in real-world climate issues. 

A new Design Climate Fellowship will support two Duke DTI students committing to take the two-semester sequence, and a mentorship role in the class afterward, with $5,000 scholarships.

“Climate is such a complex, urgent challenge facing society, and Design Climate gives students a unique opportunity to use the tools of design to address that challenge,” said Judy Ledlee, executive director of Duke Design Climate. “Duke DTI students are going to be a great asset to the class, as their expertise in design and innovation will be invaluable to our interdisciplinary teams.”

Graduates of the Duke DTI program will be well-positioned for a variety of career fields, from product management and strategy roles to design engineering and creative technology roles.

“What really excites me about Duke DTI program graduates is that they’ll be well prepared to be leaders in the roles of tomorrow,” Rao said. “These are careers that don’t exist today but that will emerge in the future.” 

Apply to the Master of Engineering in Design & Technology Innovation at Duke

Get ready for a high-impact career leading innovation.

Related News