Engineering program is off to a promising start
A new report from payscale.com reports that eight of the top 10 best-paying college majors are in the closely related fields of engineering and physics.
Thirty students are pursuing the university's new Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, twice the number anticipated as the program launched in the fall. As one of the Top 10 highest-paying college majors - with an employment rate twice the national average - ACU's newest degree is full of promise.
Students take classes through the newly named Engineering and Physics Department, and research opportunities are available through the long-established physics arm of the department.
ACU has one of the top undergraduate physics programs in the world, with unprecedented opportunities for research at national labs and private firms, including Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Engineering majors will be able to find similar opportunities alongside physics majors, or find new ones by capitalizing on ACU's outstanding reputation in science and industry.
"Abilene Christian really is the world leader in involving undergrads in research," says Dr. Rusty Towell, department chair. "Students can attend any number of colleges and universities around the country where they'll receive a good education, but you won't find another institution where there is a history of involving undergrads in real world, world-class research the way we do it at ACU."
In May 2016, the program will apply for accreditation through ABET, the premier organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit engineering programs. Accreditation can only take place once the first group of students graduate.
A competent class
Abilene Christian really is the world leader in involving undergrads in research. Students can attend any number of colleges and universities around the country where they'll receive a good education, but you won't find another institution where there is a history of involving undergrads in real world, world-class research the way we do it at ACU. - Dr. Rusty Towell
The B.S.E. is a broad, interdisciplinary degree allowing students to choose elective courses of interest and, later, to specialize in a variety of engineering fields or pursue a specific graduate program .This year's B.S.E. students are already showing competence and talent. The freshman class had an average math ACT score of 25.5, compared to the national average of 21.1.
Landon Breeding, freshman from Midland, Texas, is excited about being in ACU’s first engineering class. "I like the small class sizes, the hands-on professors, and the plentiful resources for learning and studying," he says. "I can get tutoring from the head of the department. How many freshman engineering majors at other schools can say that?"
Joseph Alexander Williams, freshman from Spring, Texas, agrees. "The professors, along with everyone in the program, are very close knit," he says.
A well-equipped leader
The B.S.E. degree program is led by Dr. Kenneth Olree.
"My philosophy of teaching and learning is centered on Christ," Olree says. "It emphasizes honesty, integrity and hard work. It is demonstrated by showing respect and concern for others. When these concepts are practiced inside and outside of the classroom, Christian faith is not merely integrated into the lesson; it becomes deeply infused into the life of a student."
Olree's experience with starting new programs makes him ideal for this position. He helped Harding University's computer engineering program earn accreditation, helped start and accredit its electrical and mechanical engineering programs, and also helped start its biomedical engineering program, which is awaiting accreditation. He has also become an ABET program evaluator for accrediting engineering programs, allowing him to prepare ACU for ABET accreditation with ease.
"It is a great honor to partner with my ACU colleagues and these new students as they develop their engineering skills," says Olree. "I'm confident many people will benefit from the imaginative solutions created by ACU graduates. ACU has a long tradition of Christian service, and I am happy to continue in this service by guiding the new engineering program."
Olree's past experience includes stints as an associate professor of engineering at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.; a researcher for the University of Utah; a specialist and engineer in the Human Performance Laboratory at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Mo.; and a program analyst for Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville, Va.
Olree earned his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Christian University, his M.S. from the University of Virginia, and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. He has published work in theJournal of Neurosurgery, the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, and BMC Neuroscience, among others.
A desirable degree
With the highest employment rates and starting salaries, as well as flexible career opportunities, a degree in engineering is among the most desirable degrees. It is also the top major among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
The unemployment rate for engineering is typically half the unemployment rate for the nation as a whole. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 8%; it is only 4% for engineers. The unemployment rate in Texas currently sits at 7.2%, with engineering rates hovering around half of that.
Starting salaries for engineers are $59,000 out of college, the highest of any degree, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Engineering students are better off than computer science, business, sciences and other affluent majors. In a report from payscale.com, studies found that eight of the top 10 best-paying college majors are in the fields of engineering and physics.
The good news doesn't stop there. Engineering is also the best field for earning a top salary without going to graduate school, making the undergraduate degree from ACU a beneficial choice. Mid-career engineers can easily make $100,000 per year or more.
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