Engineering: No boundaries, no limits

Rose's leadership, his dedication to science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies, and his commitment to promote sustainability across the curriculum, were critical to the successful development and adoption of a new School of Engineering at JMU, which enrolled its first class in the fall of 2008.

JMU engineering seniors at work in lab researching the conversion of hydrogen to clean energy.

Engineering seniors and solar hydrogen capstone team members (l-r) Brandon Journell, Bradley Wenzel, Patrick Nutbrown and John Murdock developed technology to help other engineers streamline research on the conversion of hydrogen to clean energy.

While most engineering schools separate students into specific fields, JMU's school takes a different approach. On top of a full complement of liberal arts courses, JMU engineering students study across all engineering disciplines — an approach that parallels industry changes driven by increasingly complex and interrelated systems. From this holistic perspective, students examine how projects might impact people, the environment, the economy and technology.

"We don't want engineers to leave our new School of Engineering only focused on issues of math and science and critical analysis," says JMU President Linwood H. Rose. "We want people who understand the value of what they might engineer for society. We want them to understand the economic impact of those innovations. We want them to know what the political and social implications are."

JMU's approach to engineering, unique in Virginia, is built around traditional core engineering subject matter such as thermodynamics, fluids, statics and dynamics, physics, and chemistry. But JMU students go further by taking courses in business management, engineering economics and communication. They also take two years of design courses, another significant departure from traditional engineering.

When students move from paper to actual design and construction, the holistic approach comes into focus, culminating in a two-year capstone project that requires students to bring together research, innovation and learned engineering skills.

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