Giving: $1 Million Gift from Autodesk to Plan a ‘Center of Possibilities’

  • A conceptual rendering of CSUN’s Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing. A $1 million gift from Autodesk is supporting what university officials are calling a “Center of Possibilities.”

    A conceptual rendering of CSUN’s Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing. A $1 million gift from Autodesk is supporting what university officials are calling a “Center of Possibilities.”

Early this year, design software giant Autodesk awarded CSUN a $1 million gift to support the creation of a Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing at the university.

The proposed center would establish a single, comprehensive space to design and create prototype products, with enough room for and a workflow that encourages team discussions among students from different disciplines during the design, prototype manufacturing and testing processes.

President Dianne F. Harrison said the Autodesk gift has the potential to “transform the region’s engineering, design and manufacturing workforce.”

“We are delighted that one of the world’s most innovative companies, Autodesk, and its thought-leading CEO, Andrew Anagnost, have chosen to partner with CSUN to create what we hope will be a model for not only a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to design-and manufacturing-related pedagogy, but also a catalyst for that sector’s need to diversify and expand its pool of available talent,” Harrison said. “If we are able to forge the partnerships necessary to bring this vision to fruition, the center will, by design, create an environment where entrepreneurial, inventive thinking is encouraged and where leaders are born.”

Houssam Toutanji, dean of CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, called the proposed facility a “center of possibilities” that will bring together faculty and students from across the university to collaborate and brainstorm on projects “that we can only imagine at the moment.”

“I envision engineering students working with business students and students from the humanities, breaking down the silos that traditionally exist between disciplines to create something new —using their imagination and their education to work collaboratively to create something we don’t know we need now, but will in 10, 15, 20 years,” Toutanji said.

Alumnus and Autodesk CEO and President Anagnost ’87 (Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science minor) said that “in supporting the academic development of students, we’re supporting the preparedness, agility and overall success of our future workforce across industries.

“It is Autodesk’s honor to contribute to CSUN’s Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing, as we know the challenges we’re facing today will be solved by the leaders and thinkers of the future,” he said.

The new Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing will be located near the heart of the campus next to Jacaranda Hall, which houses the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Toutanji said the faculty and students in the college eagerly anticipate the prospect of working with their peers across campus and with professionals in the manufacturing and business world on projects.

“A visionary design and manufacturing center at CSUN will provide an educational experience that will prepare students not only in engineering, but from across campus, for the 21st century workforce,” Toutanji said. “Autodesk is at the forefront of recognizing that cutting-edge design comes from interdisciplinary thinking. We at CSUN are very cognizant of the fact that the future of the world must include interdisciplinary research and collaboration, which means working across the academic spectrum and bringing in the industry around us.

“When you consider the possibilities, it’s exciting,” he added.

CSUN Vice President for University Relations and Advancement and Foundation President Robert D. Gunsalus said the gift from Autodesk will help place the university at the forefront of educating tomorrow’s leaders and creators. “CSUN students graduate with an education that empowers them to become changemakers, not just in their communities, but throughout California, the nation and the world,” Gunsalus said. “This gift to help us explore the future of engineering, design and manufacturing has the potential to expand and deepen CSUN’s significant contribution to meeting the growing need for a STEM workforce, as well as one that’s well-rounded and reflects the rich diversity of California, like our students. This gift hopefully will serve as a catalyst for other leaders to invest in the STEM talent factory that is CSUN. Those partnerships are critical to this project, and the future of the region and California.”

The College of Engineering and Computer Science is home to about 4,500 students, and graduates approximately 600 students annually with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields such as civil engineering, computer science, computer information technology, electrical engineering, computer engineering, manufacturing systems engineering, mechanical engineering, materials engineering, software engineering and structural engineering.