Dr. Kurt Paterson discusses the details of JMU Engineering.

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Engineering Frequently Asked Questions




What is the admission process to Engineering at JMU?

Admissions is to the university, not the program. We don’t set a limit on number of freshmen either. If you get accepted to JMU, you can declare Engineering as your major. This affords the broadest array of students a fair chance at entry into the profession.

What is the Engineering progression standard all about?

Along with a few other high demand programs at JMU, Engineering has a restricted limit on the number of students allowed into the junior year. In our case the 85 student limit is set to preserve the small classes, and project-rich learning, in our junior and senior years. Our two-year-long capstone projects have teams of around five students, and with the number of faculty we have, we simply can’t offer a meaningful experience if we had a large and impersonal program. Students are assessed on their academic performance in freshmen and sophomore engineering classes, then rank ordered according to engineering GPA with the Top 85 moving forward. To date, this has simply been a safety mechanism to ensure that our upper division experience is not diminished with large numbers of students. All students who have changed majors to date have done so due to low academic performance (or a new professional interest) during their first two years; that is, our progression standard has yet to remove students, students leave by their own choice.

How many students make it to graduation?

Like most engineering programs across the country, about half the students who start engineering graduate with an engineering degree. The good news is, almost all the students who opt out of engineering complete a degree at JMU in a wide range of fields, technical and other.

You only offer one degree, a B.S. in Engineering. What do your graduates do?

Just about anything you can imagine. Our graduates are employed at more than 400 companies in more than 40 types of industry. Collectively, they have nearly 350 job titles covering a huge range of conventional and modern positions. As many employers have told us, our graduates are “project-ready form Day 1”, which is way to say that they hit the ground running. Since each student has a different career dream, we encourage our students to start planning their unique pathway through our program beginning freshmen year. With a dizzying array of projects, electives, and co-curriculars, Engineering at JMU is definitely a build-your-own-adventure. We want our students to get used to making important decisions about their education, since they will need to learn throughout their careers.

As a high school student, how can I best prepare for Engineering at JMU?

The average high school GPA of our admitted students is nearly 4.0; all of our students are academically capable of succeeding. What determines success in our program is the ability to get high quality project work done. Engineering projects are a great way to learn, and our students are working to help real project partners, however project work requires you to step up, and contribute consistently to a team. So, if you can work on some tough projects in high school, make some mistakes, learn from them, get back up, and bring the project to completion, then you will be well-prepared for our Engineering program.

What do you do to help your students find jobs?

As you might guess, jobs are abundant in engineering. Because of the project-driven engineering experience we offer, our students are sought after by industry. Some things we do to connect our students to possible opportunities include two College of Integrated Science and Engineering career fairs, one in September and one in February, for both internships and full-time employment. We have a full-time Career and Academic Planning office that posts job opportunities in an online system called Handshake, where students post their resumés, can search for postings, employers review candidates, and interviews are scheduled. We also ask our students to develop an electronic portfolio of their project work, which gives them a special advantage over the students at other engineering schools.

Why do your students love JMU Engineering so much?

Because our goal is to be the best engineering program for the world, it drives us to two key differences: we engage our students on projects that make a difference to real partners, and we do that through a community of students. Size of the program is not a measure of quality, but the relationships and the commitment are. We know that groups bigger than 200 people start to fray, so we are happy when our freshmen class is around 150. Our senior class is usually around 70. Our students know each other well, and our faculty know our students well. This sense of belonging makes a tremendous difference, and is imperative to produce high performing engineering graduates.

Why do your faculty love JMU Engineering so much?

Most of us were educated in traditional ways in engineering programs with long histories. Big classes, lots of lectures, mostly problem sets and exams, and generally survival-of-the-fittest education. We fully appreciate the personalized, nurturing, contribution-oriented, and community-based culture we have built at JMU. We all have mentioned that we wished an engineering program like ours existed when we were undergraduates.

What’s the future look like for JMU Engineering?

Networks. As we closed out the first decade of the program, we stated building out opportunities by connecting to others. We are involved in numerous national competitions, have been invited to join several national networks for premier engineering programs, and have received several generous grants and donations to drive our program in the coming years. As our alumni continue to advance in their careers, we are building out numerous ways to bring our alumni back to campus to benefit our students. We are currently leading national conversations on the Engineer of 2030, and by doing so continually folding in the best visions of what content, approaches, and outcomes are needed for cutting-edge engineering graduates.

If I have questions, who should I contact?

If you have questions regarding academic preparation, contact our Engineering Academic Advisor, Jamie Claytor, at claytojp@jmu.edu. She continuously wins awards for a reason (she’s excellent). Also, reach out to Jamie if you would like to schedule a tour of Engineering, she will set one up with one or more of our Engineering Ambassadors, great students to walk and talk with.

And, if you have any other questions, contact Prof. Kurt Paterson, Head of Engineering at JMU. He’s got the insight of how and why our program is so amazing, and loves meeting with each prospective student and their family when they visit campus. His email is paterskg@jmu.edu.

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