Michigan Engineering News

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Driving solutions for all

Karl Iagnemma and wife Ann-Kristin Lund continue to support equity-centered engineering initiatives.

When Karl Iagnemma (BSE ME ’94) was a mechanical engineering student at U-M, he remembers doing a lot of what he calls “textbook engineering”—things like cost optimization and safety testing. But when he started his career, he discovered that the working world didn’t always match up to the one in the textbooks.

“You learn very quickly that the work we do as engineers has a transformative impact on society, often whether we like it or not, or whether we intended to or not—sometimes in ways that we don’t anticipate,” he said.

That’s certainly the case in the autonomous vehicle space, where Iagnemma is president and CEO of Motional, a Boston-based company that aims to roll out autonomous vehicles for ridesharing and delivery applications. Iagnemma’s experience with disruptive technology has shown him the need for a more diverse engineering field that benefits all people rather than just some.

That need inspired Iagnemma and his wife, Ann-Kristin Lund, to make a gift to support the College’s equity-centered engineering initiatives, a portion of which will support the M-Engin Academy.

Equity-centered engineering aims to create a framework for teaching how social problems impact engineering and how engineers can fight inequality. The M-Engin Academy seeks to maximize the academic, personal and professional success of undergraduate students.

Iagnemma and Lund hope their gift will help attract a broader swath of students to the engineering field and help Michigan Engineering in its efforts to rethink engineering education.

“My hope is that through this initiative and similar initiatives, students will come out of Michigan having completed their engineering education with a greater understanding of their role as engineers as well as the impact they can have on society,” Iagnemma said.

Investing in students is something Iagnemma has done in other ways as well. He and Lund set up an expendable gift to establish a fellowship in mechanical engineering, which gives the department great flexibility in serving the needs of recipients. Iagnemma also has been an Entrepreneurship Hour speaker, is a member of the Mechanical Engineering External Advisory Board and regularly mentors engineering students and others through the Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Every year it seems like there’s an increasing percentage of students who want to start their own business, want to become entrepreneurs,” he said. “It’s part of the culture these days in a way that it wasn’t when I was younger. And so, I try to share what I know.”