Photo by Danny Meyer
Almost 60 pre-engineering and engineering majors enrolled in the introductory civil engineering course offered this fall, and they marked the occasion by designing official T-shirts with all their names on the back. The Department of Civil Engineering is now fully staffed, and two new faculty members will join the department chair, Dr. William Kitch, by January with another expected by the end of the spring 2016 semester.
“We’ve had excellent response to our advertisements for faculty,” Kitch said. “All the faculty coming in have industry experience, and a number of them already have their professional registration, so we’ll have that strong tie with industry that we’ve wanted.”
The additional faculty will allow the department to add a new course in the spring, two more next summer and 3–4 more each subsequent fall and spring semester until the curriculum is fully implemented.
“My vision for the department is to produce practice-ready engineers with the broader skills to be future leaders,” Kitch said. “We’re going to have a practice-focused curriculum so that when students leave here they will be job-ready and immediately employable by industry.”
“The broader skills I’m talking about are things like communication, teamwork and leadership skills,” he added. “They are skills that are not taught in individual classes, but are actually threads through the entire curriculum. If you talk to industry employers, the biggest complaint about new university graduates is that they don’t have those broader skills they need to be most productive. So we are going to focus on making sure those skills are woven throughout our curriculum.”
“Our graduates will be employable throughout our region and all over Texas.”
In the meantime, ASU engineering students are already getting hands-on training to supplement their classroom lessons.
“One of the things our students are already doing is going on what we call site visits to local engineering firms,” Kitch said. “They are going out in teams of three or four to practicing engineering and construction companies, or a related industry, to find out what engineers do on the job. I’ve had great positive reports about the caliber of the students we’re sending, as well as from the students themselves. The students are really excited and motivated by these opportunities to go network with industry professionals this early in their careers.”
For their end-of-semester project, the students built model bridges from standard kits and then tested their strength and stability in a contest that was held in the University Center so everyone could watch. A list of the first class of ASU engineering students can be found here.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a bright future for the civil engineering field: close to 50,000 new jobs to be added by 2022 with a median income of about $82,000 a year. ASU’s program will initially concentrate on the particular sub-disciplines of structural, transportation, water resource, geotechnical and construction engineering.
“That will prepare our graduates for public sector employment opportunities with municipalities and regulatory agencies,” Kitch said. “The private sector jobs will be in the construction and design industries, both building and designing buildings and other structures.”
“In our region, access to water resources and improving roadways are issues that will continue to drive employment even after the oil boom is over,” he added. “Our graduates will be employable throughout our region and all over Texas.”
With construction set to begin on the Hunter Strain Civil Engineering Laboratories in September 2016, monetary donations in hand to purchase laboratory equipment and a burgeoning relationship with local industry, ASU’s civil engineering program is already beginning to fulfill its vast potential.
“Right now, I’m hot, tired and happy,” Kitch said. “We started off with three times the number of students we expected to have, so that’s been a real challenge, but a really pleasant one to take on. Our links with the community have been great, and the ties with industry are really solid. I have new staff and we have new faculty coming on in January, so we can step up the program and get the rest of the curriculum ready. I’m looking forward to the Christmas break, but I’m very happy with what we’ve accomplished this semester.”
Engineering Program Timeline
May 2014: The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approves addition of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering to ASU’s Department of Physics and Geosciences.
May 2014: ASU receives a $4.5 million gift from an anonymous donor to fund construction of the Hunter Strain Civil Engineering Laboratories.
August 2014: U.S. Department of Education awards ASU a five-year, $2.87 million grant for a cooperative program between ASU and Southwest Texas Junior College titled “Strengthening the Engineering Pipeline in West Texas” (STEP West Texas). ASU will utilize the funds to hire faculty and provide infrastructure for its new civil engineering program.
April 2015: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approves ASU’s new bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering.
May 2015: ASU receives anonymous gifts of $100,000 to purchase civil engineering laboratory equipment and $20,000 to fund the program’s first endowed scholarship.
May 2015: The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approves ASU’s addition of the Department of Civil Engineering.
June 2015: Dr. William Kitch is named the first chair of ASU’s new Department of Civil Engineering.
August 2015: The first group of more than 50 civil engineering students begins attending classes.