Southeastern offers new degree in engineering technology
Contact: Rene Abadie
MEETING WORKFORCE NEEDS -- Ghassan Alkadi, associate professor of computer science at Southeastern Louisiana University, explains a problem to his students. Southeastern this semester has launched a new engineering technology program designed to help meet area workforce needs.
The new program, which leads to a Bachelor of Science degree, builds on Southeastern’s industrial technology and computer science programs offered through the College of Science and Technology. The program has been approved by the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and the state Board of Regents.
Four concentrations of specialized study are planned, with industrial, computer and mechanical technology being offered initially with construction engineering technology following. The programs in mechanical engineering technology and computer engineering technology are the only ones being offered in the state.
“We are excited about the anticipated impact this program will have on the workforce,” said John L. Crain, interim president. “Data from the Louisiana Department of Labor and other sources indicate that in the next several years we can expect a 17 percent growth in the construction industry and a 44 percent growth in the professional, scientific and technical services industries. This growth will lead to an increased demand for specialized technical positions such as engineering technologists.”
Crain said the new programs will use Southeastern’s current computer and technology labs for the next several years while waiting for construction to begin on a recently-approved $21.4 million engineering technology building.
An engineering technology program differs from a traditional engineering program in that it is more focused on applications of technology, explained Cris Koutsougeras, professor of computer science and head of the Department of Computer Science and Industrial Technology. A classic engineering program is centered more on theoretical fundamentals that can lead to the development of new technology, he said.
“An important difference between engineering technology and engineering is that the technologist is by definition familiar with current technologies and consequently does not require as much training upon entering the workplace,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why engineering technology graduates are in such high demand by industry.
“The approach is different from classical engineering in that it is devoted primarily to the utilization of available engineering techniques and methods to solve practical technological problems,” said Junkun Ma, assistant professor of industrial technology.
Engineering technology also differs from industrial technology, a program which Southeastern has offered for years and will continue to offer, Koutsougeras explained. The focus of industrial technology is more on the logistics of using technology in supervision, production management and warehousing issues, he said.
The new program will stress the application of science to the solution of technological problems, technical knowledge, problem solving skills and technology implementation in the workplace. Koutsougeras said the intent is to develop a nationally recognized and accredited program by offering a strong curriculum, hands-on education, applied research and service, and content that is highly relevant to employers’ needs.
Planning for the new degree program involved considerable consultation with the department’s advisory board, a committee of 50 members industry who provide advice on curricula, degree programs and work opportunities.
“They give us feedback on the skills, qualifications and knowledge they expect from a graduate of our program,” Ma said. “’We’ll maintain a tight relationship with these professionals and anticipate that our students will get some industrial experience even before they graduate through joint efforts with industry on research projects and other activities such as internships.”
“A number of the advisory board members indicated this program is just what industry needs at this time,” added Koutsougeras.
In anticipation of the program’s development and recent launch, recent faculty hires include several individuals highly qualified in the areas of specialization.
The program is expected to draw heavily from currently enrolled students, especially those who have selected pre-engineering as an area of interest with the intent of transferring to another university for a four-year degree in engineering. In a survey of those students, more than 75 percent indicated strong interest in pursuing a degree in the new program as opposed to transferring to another university.
“I’m very excited to be one of the first students in this new program,” said sophomore Beth King of Franklinton, who plans to enter the mechanical engineering technology concentration. “I was majoring in pre-engineering and physics and had planned to transfer to another university. What caught my attention about this program is that it is an applied science, whereas pure engineering is a theoretical science. For me, this is really a great opportunity.”
“The students indicated a strong desire to stay at Southeastern to finish their degrees and also said that the discipline of engineering technology was more suited to their interests and career goals than engineering itself,” Koutsougeras said.