Senator Tomassoni Congratulates Iron Range Engineering

IRE Recognized as “Top 10 Emerging World Leader in Engineering Education” by MIT

To the Editor:

I am pleased to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Iron Range Engineering (IRE), which was recently recognized as one of the top 10 emerging world leaders in engineering education by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The top ten emerging leaders of innovation, in order, are:

  1. Singapore University of Technology and Design (Singapore)
  2. Olin College (US)
  3. University College London (UK)
  4. Pontifical University of Chile (Chile)
  5. Iron Range Engineering (US)
  6. National University of Singapore (Singapore)
  7. Technical University Delft (Netherlands)
  8. Charles Sturt University (Australia)
  9. Tsinghua University (China)
  10. Arizona State University (US)

It is truly gratifying to be on this list of distinguished engineering schools. When Ron Ulseth first made the suggestion to create IRE to former Rep. Tom Rukavina and myself, we knew he was onto something, but I believe it has exceeded our expectations. The hands-on learning opportunities offered by IRE are very well received by students, instructors, and industry alike.

IRE is paying big dividends for our workforce. The unique collaboration between Mesabi Range College, Itasca Community College, and the degree issuing-Minnesota State University-Mankato consistently produces high career placement rates in our local communities. Funding through the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and support from industry partners like Hibbing Taconite, Minnesota Power, and many more are a big reason for the program’s success.

As was reported in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review and other local newspapers: “Catering largely to the Community College student market, Iron Range Engineering (IRE) is an upper-division program, comprising the final two years of a four-year engineering bachelor’s degree. Although based on a Community College campus, IRE degrees are [awarded] by Minnesota State University, Mankato. The program first opened its doors to students in 2009 and its annual intake is currently fixed at 25. The two-year program is entirely structured around semester-long industry-sponsored projects using a Project Based Learning approach. At the start of each semester, students are expected to define their own learning goals and outcomes relating to each project as well as determine how these will be achieved. At the close of each project, students are asked to submit a design report. All exams are conducted orally, before a mixed panel. Self-directed learning is a critical element of IRE, which is supported by a significant focus on student self-reflection. Indeed, students are asked to document and submit around 150 structured self-reflections during the two-year program. With a strong program focus on “supporting the unique trajectory of every student”, the continuous process of self- reflection also helps to guide and inform student decision making in their choice of projects, competencies, specialisms and ways of working. Professional expectations are also strongly emphasized in the IRE program, with a dress code, a professional code of conduct relating to student and staff communication and a learning environment that “emulates professional practice.”

Thank you to Director Christine Kennedy, Ron Ulseth, the entire IRE faculty, and to our industry partners for your innovative and creative approach to educating our next generation of engineers right here on the Iron Range. You make us proud and we are grateful for all you do. Congratulations once again for receiving this prestigious recognition.


David Tomassoni

Senator David Tomassoni
David Tomassoni represents District 6, which includes portions of Itasca and St. Louis counties in the northeastern part of the state.

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