Engineering gets a makeover

Engineering Renovations

By: Zachary Harris

For an engineering department to thrive, it must continually adapt to the ever-changing nature of the field. Fortunately, Madison Engineering faculty and students can now take advantage of newly refurbished work-spaces.

 “Engineering started at JMU in 2008 and the prospect was to reimagine what engineering education could look like in the twenty-first century,” Kurt Paterson, head of the engineering department, said. “The faculty spent a good deal of time rethinking what a modern engineer should have in terms of content. But I think more importantly, what a modern student should have in terms of the learning experience.”

Faculty eventually concluded that an engineering department should stress the importance of design and project-based curricula. “That program has been wildly successful,” Paterson said. “We’re a national model of how engineering could be done.”Engineering lab spaces get a makeover

The engineering department needed a physical space that was capable of handling such a curriculum. According to Paterson, JMU’s upper administration saw the early successes of the program and decided to remodel the former Health and Human Services building to conform with the engineering department’s needs. “Part of that reality was the approval of the construction of the new health sciences building across campus,” he said. “Once that was in place, all the remaining health programs could move out of this building and the remodeling process could begin.”

There are future renovations planned for 2018 which will focus on the second and third floors of the Engineering and Geosciences Building to accommodate Integrated Science and Technology programs and Geology, but engineering has just finished the last elements of its move this Fall. The renovation process is part of JMU’s longer-term goal of making the eastern side of campus entirely focused on STEM fields. “After next summer 2018, geology will move from the exact opposite side of campus in Memorial Hall to the third floor over here,” Paterson said. “Geology will be on the third floor, geographic science and intelligence analysis will be on the second floor, and engineering on the first and ground floors.”Engineering classrooms are set up for a project-based curricula.

The engineering department has grown significantly since 2008. Current enrollment is approximately 500 students with 45 percent year-to-year growth for the freshman class. “It certainly is a testament to a lot of positive things about this engineering program,” Paterson said. “It’s aligned extremely well with the university’s mission to having engaged students. It makes perfect sense to have engineering students trying to work with real partners in the world, to deliver real good to the world, now in spaces that enable this kind of learning engineering by doing engineering.”

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2018

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