Engineering program expands with new graduate degree

Special to the Star

With a new master’s degree in the process of approval, the Ingram School of Engineering is beginning to expand its program, forcing it to address some of the problems that have arisen as a result of increased enrollment.

The Master of Science in Engineering degree was approved by the Texas State University System Board of Regents in November. Students enrolling in the master’s degree program will add to the population of the School of Engineering, which saw limited space and a record enrollment of 731 students in fall 2013.

Anticipating a large population of engineering graduate students in addition to projected record enrollment, school officials face space constraints as they wait for funding for a new Engineering and Science Building.

“Growth in the engineering population means corresponding growth in other areas where engineering students typically gather in large numbers,” said Stan McClellan, director of the Ingram School of Engineering. “So the campus as a whole feels the ‘pull through’ of the larger engineering population because the curriculum requires classes from multiple areas, and those areas are also space-constrained.”

To address accommodation problems, modifications to the Roy F. Mitte Technology and Physics Building, where the Ingram School of Engineering is housed, will be made in conjunction with the physics and technology departments.

School officials surveyed the current space in order to utilize it more efficiently. The areas between the Roy F. Mitte and Joann Cole Mitte buildings will be renovated to accommodate graduate students with office spaces. Larger classrooms, additional offices and expanded lab spaces are also planned.

Additionally, a renewable energy farm is being installed on the roof of the Roy F. Mitte building and will be used for academic and research purposes. Solar panels and small wind turbines have been installed with some funding from the State Energy Conservation Office. The control room of the farm will be completed within the next month.

“We’re working within existing space constraints to deliver our current undergraduate programs and plan for expansion into graduate programs,” McClellan said. “It’s challenging, but we hope with some advance planning and possibly a longer-term master plan, we’ll be able to continue growing.”

The school still needs to gain further approval before it may officially begin to offer the degree.

“The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board must approve the proposal, as well as our regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges,” said Debbie Thorne, associate vice president for academic affairs. “These entities will review the proposal, seek any additional information or clarification and then provide us with their approval or disapproval.”

It is unknown when the THECB will begin deliberations about the degree, but school officials are hopeful they will have a decision by March, allowing Texas State to offer the degree in the near future.

“We really won’t be able to formulate a timeline until we hear from them,” said Stephen Seidman, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

The requirements of the degree were designed as an effort to meet a nationwide demand for engineers. According to a press release from University News Service, Texas has a demand for 6,000 new engineers a year.

Companies such as Dell, Samsung and Texas Instruments provided input for the degree plan, which requires a large project or thesis of a real-world application of engineering principles. The degree also provides for flexibility within the program for students to take some electives outside the school of engineering.

“Industry needs graduates with multiple areas of expertise—that’s the primary thrust,” McClellan said. “They need functioning engineers who have cross-discipline expertise. That’s the way this degree is designed.”

Future growth may also include additional undergraduate degrees in mechanical, civil or environmental engineering, although no additional graduate degree programs are planned.