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Trustees will hear IU's engineering plan in April


By Hannah Alani



IU will begin the process of establishing an engineering program on the IU Bloomington campus, the University announced Wednesday.

The program would be housed within the School of Informatics and Computing, a release said, and would have close ties to other scientific disciplines on campus.

The initial plans for the program include the immediate creation of a bachelor’s and doctoral programs, with a master’s degree track to follow.

The proposal will be presented to the IU Board of Trustees at its April meeting. If approved, the degree proposals would move to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. If successful with the Trustees and Commission, SOIC engineering students would enroll for courses in the fall of 2016, IU Communications spokesman Mark Land said Thursday

“We’ve done our initial groundwork,” Land said. “The timing is right for us to move forward.”

The announcement follows the release of an economic development study for southwest central Indiana in late 2014 and is consistent with the recommendations of a university task force, chaired by School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel.

The program itself would be heavily focused on information technology, not necessarily the kind of engineering that is being studied and applied in West Lafayette in the well-known engineering halls of Purdue University, Land said.

“We’re going to play from our strengths,” Land said. “We’re not out to compete.”

As the economy becomes more technology dependent, it is imperative that IU fosters a culture that prepares students to compete for the high-demand jobs of the future, said IU President Michael A. McRobbie.

“This program, which will be complementary to other outstanding engineering programs in the state, also allows us to build on our extensive existing strengths in informatics, computing and the sciences in ways that will benefit our students and the state of Indiana,” McRobbie said in the release.

The economic development study conducted by the Batelle Technology Partnership Practice called upon IU to expand offerings in applied sciences, including engineering, in order to meet the future economic needs of southwest central Indiana.

Specifically, the study noted that the “lack of an engineering or applied technology connection point with IU Bloomington makes it more difficult for regional manufacturers to find avenues in which to engage the university,” according to the release.

IU Bloomington is the only university among the 62 members of the Association of American Universities without an engineering program, according to the release.

Federal grant funding favors schools with high technology transfer and patents, which come from engineering programs, Land added.

“It’s not a coincidence, IU’s lack of an engineering program and that we are relatively low on tech transfer,” Land said. “An engineering program is not going to solve all of that. But without it, we’ve been playing at a disadvantage.”

Industry leaders across Indiana have expressed support for the establishment of an engineering program at IU Bloomington as a way to help meet the increasing need for STEM graduates in the state, the release said.

“This is a great opportunity to serve a need for engineering and technology graduates in Indiana,” said Stephen L. Ferguson, chairman of medical device manufacturer Cook Group Inc. “The ability of Indiana’s economy to compete in the world requires an increased engineering workforce. I am very pleased to see IU taking this initiative to add engineering degrees.”

If created, the program would be the latest in a series of sweeping academic changes on the Bloomington campus in the past three years including a School of Public Health, the School of Global and International Studies, the Media School and the School of Informatics and Computing.

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