Rick Schuhmann Selected as Next President of the Landing School
With his background as Scuba diver, boat builder, environmental engineering consultant, professor at Pennsylvania State University and leadership expert, CEE senior lecturer Richard Schuhmann has spent the last two years at MIT engaged in suitably wide-ranging topics. Selected as the next president of the Landing School in Arundel, Maine, which specializes in boat building and marine industry technology, he says, “It’s been a really dynamic time at MIT. I feel so lucky to have been in this remarkable place.”
Department head Markus Buehler says, “Congratulations to Rick on this exciting opportunity, and we send our very best wishes for the future! We are very fortunate to have had him in our community, and look forward to future interactions with him.”
Schuhmann reinvented the 1.040 Project Management subject to include a half-semester segment where his students formed virtual teams with engineering students in Morocco. (He reads and speaks Arabic, thanks to Harvard Extension School night classes and 30 years of North African travels.) “The object was to produce and deliver on time, to specifications and within budget, a chlorine injector for potable water treatment,” he says. As the class learned to handle substantial differences in language, culture, and time zones for scheduling meetings, they also created an actual functioning device.
Recently Schuhmann and Professor Joseph Sussman collaborated to fuse 1.011 Project Evaluation with 1.040. “The resulting writing-intensive subject Project Evaluation and Management is the unique result,” he says. “I enjoyed working with and learning from Joe and am confident that the students will really appreciate this subject.”
In his duties with the MEng (Master of Engineering) program, Schuhmann helped two teams of students establish an early warning system for flooding in the Manafwa River basin in Uganda. He sums up, “I enjoyed the MEng program because it’s so much hands-on. I held the students up to very rigorous standards and I was amazed what they accomplished.”
Outside of Course 1, Schuhmann was a senior lecturer and short subject program manager in the Gordon MIT Engineering Leadership Program, which runs summer courses for outside professionals. Here he developed and taught engineering leadership for early career professionals, followed by a similar program for mid-career professionals.
MIT has been a reoccurring presence in Schumann’s life for decades. After receiving a geology degree in 1981 from the University of New Hampshire, he explored historic shipwrecks off the New England coast. At the same time, he says he “lurked around the halls of MIT” and encountered the legendary Harold “Doc” Edgerton. A pioneer in underwater electronics and strobe photography, Doc worked together with Schuhmann testing new transducers for sub-bottom profiling.
For experience on a different type of ship, in 1986 Schuhmann enrolled in the Landing School. He built two traditional wooden boats during what he called “the toughest academic year I’ve ever had in my life. But the reward was that you’d start with a pile of raw lumber in late August, and by December you’d be sailing in a beautiful boat on the Kennebunk River.” Schuhmann earned an SM at University of Houston and a PhD at Penn State in Environmental Engineering, managing very large environmental litigation projects as a consulting environmental engineer along the way. To analyze a major underground pollution case, he returned to MIT to “find the smartest guys I could, who turned out to be Parsons Lab professors Dennis McLaughlin and Phil Gschwend. Dennis defined the groundwater transport and Phil helped us understand the fate of those organic contaminants over the decades,” says Schuhmann.
With events now coming around full-circle to the Landing School, Schuhmann muses about his new position. Based on his experiences at MIT and elsewhere, he hopes to create an innovation atmosphere where students will “consider the idea of developing product or process ideas and starting their own businesses, as opposed to simply learning a trade and working for someone else.”
Reviewing his diverse job history, Schuhmann comments that while he has been “lucky that I’ve crossed paths with opportunities,” he describes himself as a risk taker. “When a door opened, I would stick my head in and usually walk through. Taking a year to go build wooden boats was sort of peculiar, but it’s probably one of the most meaningful things that I’ve done. It’s going to serve me very well as head of the Landing School.”