Elon University / Today at Elon / Elon creates engineering department as program grows

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The formation of the engineering department comes after years of planned growth and as the university prepares to open the first two buildings of the Innovation Quad.

Reflecting years of program growth and marking an important milestone in the Boldly Elon strategic plan, Elon University established the Department of Engineering on August 1.

The formation coincides with the opening of the first two buildings of Elon’s Innovation Quad, a state-of-the-art center for engineering and physics research and interdisciplinary collaboration comprising 60,000 square feet of laboratory and prototyping space. point.

Crews are preparing landscaping around Founders Hall and Innovation Hall, the first two buildings of the Innovation Quad, which will open later this month.

Associate Professor Scott Wolter will be the department’s first chair. After years of strategic growth in enrollment, programs and programs, as well as close attention from university leaders to advance excellence in Elon’s STEM programs, the department is poised to thrive, said Wolter.

“We want to be a small, nationally recognized engineering school,” Wolter said, echoing a goal of the Boldly Elon plan. “Our goal is to train around 100 students in each class with a strong academic foundation and strong engineering skills. We expect enrollment to continue to increase in the near future to achieve this goal. With the excitement of new learning spaces and spaces dedicated to collaboration, our program is poised to provide the kind of innovative engineering education to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The transition to a department comes as the program expands to offer additional coursework and degree concentrations, made possible by the expertise of faculty and state-of-the-art facilities at the Innovation Quad.

A team of three students test and perfect their solar-powered water purification prototype with a UV lamp inside the Duke Robotics Lab.
Students in Assistant Professor Will Pluer’s Grand Challenges in Engineering II course test and perfect their solar-powered water purification prototype.

Elon’s engineering program has been part of the physics department since 1999, when the university partnered with NC State University to offer a dual-degree engineering program. This program has grown to have nine partner institutions, currently including NCSU, Georgia Tech, Clemson University, Penn State, and the University of Notre Dame.

Developing a distinctive brand of hands-on, project-based learning infused with liberal arts perspectives, Elon launched his own four-year Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in 2018. Enrollments have been growing ever since. It graduated the first three students in 2020. As of 2022, eleven have graduated. This fall, 48 incoming first-year students will join the program for a total of 123 students in the four-year and dual degree streams.

This growth indicates Elon’s unique engineering strengths, said Gabie Smith, Dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Elon’s engineering curriculum is truly innovative, providing rigorous preparation of engineering skills within the rich context of a liberal arts education,” Smith said. “Our undergraduates develop the technical prowess, broad critical thinking, and collaborative dexterity needed to solve complex problems and thrive in the field.”

Associate Professor of Engineering Scott Wolter helps undergraduate students build remotely operated underwater vehicles in Hampl's Engineering Shop.
Associate Professor of Engineering Scott Wolter helps undergraduate students build remotely operated underwater vehicles in Hampl’s Engineering Shop.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree in general engineering, students can focus on biomedical engineering, computer science and, starting this fall, environmental engineering. Several engineering minors are also in development. This fall, the Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Minor will begin enrolling students in a program that equips non-engineering majors with fundamental engineering skills applicable to a wide range of disciplines.

Associate Professor Sirena Hargrove-Leak joined Elon in 2004 as the program’s second faculty member along with Associate Professor Emeritus Rich D’Amato. She coordinated the four-year degree until the spring. She and Wolter emphasized the shared mission of continuous improvement of the program by faculty and staff.

“We have expanded the range of options for our students, as well as the depth of our curriculum. We are always working to strengthen our courses,” said Hargrove-Leak. “In 2004, we couldn’t imagine an engineering school, but the program has continued to improve, progress and grow, so now it’s clear that it is possible.

“One of the great things about this is that the gains that engineering is seeing aren’t isolated to the program. They extend to the entire university community. We plan to attract different types of students and I am delighted that everyone is benefiting from this,” she added.

Among the strategic milestones of recent years, Elon’s engineering program:

  • Completion of the rigorous Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation process from 2019 to 2022, and a formal accreditation announcement is expected this fall. ABET accreditation signifies a program’s success in producing graduate engineers ready to meet the needs of global employers.
  • Added new faculty and staff, including Associate Professor Bethany Brinkman, Assistant Professor Will Pluer, Lab Director Matthew Banks, and Director of Engineering Outreach John Ring.
  • Convened the Engineering Advisory Board, which consists of industry professionals across the country, alumni and parents helping guide the program to excellence.
  • Creation of the Engineering Scholars program, enrolling up to 20 talented and committed aspiring engineers in the program each year. Twenty scholars will enroll in the fall of 2022.

Wolter is particularly proud of the cohesion and investment shared by faculty and engineering staff.

Andrew Jackson '21 works with Associate Professor Sirena Hargrove-Leak to prepare his team's 3D-printed rocket for launch at the South Campus training ground.
Andrew Jackson ’21 is working with Associate Professor Sirena Hargrove-Leak to prepare his 3D printed rocket for launch.

“The culture of our program is very important. We are motivated and excited about the growth of the program, we all love teaching, and we recognize the value of maintaining close relationships to manage the challenges of pace and growth,” Wolter said. “Elon makes it possible. Our leadership makes for great teaching and I think everyone in our STEM programs feels their support.

In addition to opening the Innovation Quad this fall, the university is also extensively renovating the Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Science Center’s labs, classrooms, and meeting spaces to advance studies in the natural sciences. The first phase of these renovations will be completed this month. A second phase is planned for the summer of 2023.

“These facilities represent new opportunities for our students,” said Hargrove-Leak. “They will have dedicated spaces to do the kinds of things they are so passionate about: designing and building. They will also be able to test their creations in a more robust way. This installation will change their lives.

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