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Engineering the Road to a New Program

By the fall of 2015, Angelo State University will be an engineering school.

In May, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approved a new Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree in ASU’s College of Arts and Sciences, pending final approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC).

Engineering classes are projected to begin next fall. Civil engineering was chosen from the varied engineering fields for several reasons, one being how well it will fit with ASU’s strong and growing geosciences and natural resource management programs.

“Civil engineering is also a good fit for this part of the country,” said Dr. Paul Swets, College of Arts and Sciences dean, “because civil engineers work on water issues, which are important in West Texas. They work on infrastructure, and if you’ve driven on any of the roads west of here, you know how important that is. They work on renewable energy projects, like laying the pads for the big windmills. So in our area, civil engineering is a really nice fit.”

“It’s also a matter of numbers,” he continued. “We consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which over the next 10 years pro­jects a much larger growth in civil engineering employment opportunities than in the petroleum, mechanical and electrical engineering fields combined. So, it’s a really good place for us to start.”

The new program has been kick started by a $4.5 million gift from an anonymous donor that will fund construction of a new engineering facility on campus.

“We would not be in a position to start this new program without the generosity of our anonymous donor,” said ASU President Brian J. May. “Donors play a crucial role in the growth of the university and the quality of our programs.”

The anonymous gift will also pave the way for additional faculty and lab equipment.

“We are going to have to outfit at least three laboratories for the engineers,” Swets said. “We also have a fairly aggressive plan to hire faculty, starting with hopefully getting one hired this year to help build the program so we are ready for next fall.”

“We are projecting pretty strong growth in student numbers, even through the first few years,” he added. “So, I think we will be needing to hire faculty and equip the additional space fairly quickly.”

The process to add a new degree plan normally takes 2-3 years, but because of the increasing need for civil engineers both regionally and nationally, ASU administrators pushed the new engineering program from conception to approval by the TTUS regents in less than 12 months. The next step is to take their proposal before the THECB and SACS-COC this fall for final approval.

Additionally, there is already significant community support for the program, with several local engineering firms committed to providing student internship opportunities that could help lead to civil engineering careers with an average starting salary of about $60,000.

“At ASU, we pride ourselves in building academic programs that not only prepare our students for outstanding careers, but also help meet the needs of our greater society,” May said. “We have done that with all our other academic programs and now are continuing in that direction with engineering.”

  • Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre is a news and information specialist at Angelo State University. 
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