Engineering develops new degree, builds support

Students looking for additional engineering degree options may not have to wait much longer. A new bachelor of science in engineering is proposed to begin at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The new option, which gives students the choice to specialize in either mechanical, electrical or computer systems, is scheduled to be available beginning fall 2005.
The proposed program comes along not a moment too soon according to Grant Baker, program chair of the mechanical and electrical engineering program.

“For 25 years I’ve been trying to get these programs started,” Baker said. “This degree would be a solution to getting more engineering here in Alaska.”

Currently, the only four-year engineering degree available at UAA is civil engineering. Many students complete their first two years at UAA, taking the core math, chemistry and physics classes, and then transfer to the University of Alaska Fairbanks or out of state in order to complete their degrees.

According to the School of Engineering’s Web site, the new program will be a win-win situation for the entire UA system by attracting new students to Alaska who might not otherwise have started the engineering program.

The new program at UAA will also enhance UAF’s graduate degree program, Baker said.
“There has always been a concern that this program may draw students away from Fairbanks,” Baker said. “That concern has vanished. This degree is thought of as one of the better programs to prepare students for graduate school.”

An external review group, paid by UA President Mark Hamilton’s office, initiated the proposal. The group was formed specifically to review the engineering program at UAA. During the course of their investigation, they read letters of support from students and the Institute of Social and Economic Research. The group also listened to input from an advisory board’s members, who are engineering-firm executives. The board described what they want in entry-level engineers.

The program is also rallying support from the Municipality of Anchorage. In a letter to the School of Engineering, Mayor Mark Begich expressed his support for the program.

- Advertisement -

“Since Anchorage provides technical expertise and logistical support to resource industries and rural communities around the state, it is past time for our university to be preparing students to begin successful careers in those fields,” Begich wrote. “Computer systems engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering are fields in demand now and will continue to be in the future.”

In order for the proposed program to be approved, it has to pass through several tiers of committees. Currently, it is residing at the Undergraduate Academic Board, which is composed of faculty from different university programs. If approved, it will then go to the Faculty Senate, the President’s Office and finally the Board of Regents.

Baker is optimistic about the program’s chances because not a single opposing voice has been heard yet.