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Indiana University to seek approval to establish engineering program at IU Bloomington campus

  • March 18, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Following the release of an economic development study for southwest central Indiana in late 2014 and consistent with the recommendations of a university task force and an external blue ribbon committee of engineering experts, Indiana University has announced that it will begin the process of establishing an engineering program on the IU Bloomington campus.

Both groups have strongly endorsed creation of a program that would be housed within the School of Informatics and Computing and that would have close ties to other scientific disciplines on the campus.

The initial plans for the program include the creation of bachelor’s and doctoral programs, with a master’s degree track to follow closely after the initial launch. The proposal by the IU task force, chaired by School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel, is for the department to comprise about 20 faculty members.

Details of the program are expected to be presented to the IU Board of Trustees at its April meeting. If approved, the degree proposals would move to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for its consideration.

“Central to Indiana University’s mission for nearly 200 years has been the notion of serving the economic needs of the state of Indiana,” said Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie. “As our economy becomes more technology dependent, it is imperative that IU fully support a culture of making and building that prepares students to compete for the high-demand jobs of the future.

“This program, which will be complementary to other outstanding engineering programs in the state, also allows us to build on our extensive existing strengths in informatics, computing and the sciences in ways that will benefit our students and the state of Indiana.”

The economic development study conducted by the Batelle Technology Partnership Practice, titled "Strategic Plans for Economic and Community Prosperity in Southwest Central Indiana,” called upon IU Bloomington to “expand and/or develop” offerings in applied sciences, including engineering, in order to meet the future economic needs of southwest central Indiana. Specifically, the study noted that the “lack of an engineering or applied technology connection point with IU Bloomington makes it more difficult for regional manufacturers to find avenues in which to engage the university.”

In endorsing the recommendations of the IU task force, the external committee -- comprising Anita Jones, professor emerita at the University of Virginia; Eric Grimson, chancellor of MIT; and James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan -- stressed the importance of an engineering program to the academic portfolio of a research university.

“In an increasingly technology-driven world, a research university simply cannot be comprehensive without a significant engineering program any more than it can meet contemporary needs without other professional schools such as law, business and education,” the committee members wrote.

The committee noted the fact that IU Bloomington is the only university among the 62 members of the prestigious Association of American Universities without an engineering program. It also cited a growing unmet need for engineers in Indiana as further justification for creating an engineering program, adding that creating such a program at IU Bloomington could open the door for valuable collaborations with other universities in Indiana as is common in states with multiple institutions that offer engineering.

“Focused engineering capacity (at IU Bloomington) will attract both additional human capital and economic activity from other states and nations, thereby multiplying the impact of the initial investment,” the committee wrote.

Additionally, industry leaders across Indiana have expressed support for the establishment of an engineering program at IU Bloomington as a way to help meet the increasing need for STEM graduates in the state.

"This is a great opportunity to serve a need for engineering and technology graduates in Indiana,” said Stephen L. Ferguson, chairman of medical device manufacturer Cook Group Inc. “The ability of Indiana's economy to compete in the world requires an increased engineering workforce. I am very pleased to see IU taking this initiative to add engineering degrees."

The proposed program would build on considerable existing strength on the IU Bloomington campus, where about 100 faculty members have engineering credentials and training. In addition to the resources made available through the university’s first-of-its-kind School of Informatics and Computing, researchers and students will have access to world-class supercomputing and cyberinfrastructure resources. Additionally, the university expects significant collaboration with other academic disciplines on campus, such as the physical and biological sciences, as well as with other professional schools.

“Building this program from the ground up opens the prospect of integrating the engineering traditions of design and practical application with our existing strengths in the sciences and other areas,” said Robert de Ruyter, chair of the Department of Physics in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the internal task force. “This will benefit both education and research, and create exciting opportunities for innovative curricula and multidisciplinary work.”

If created, the program would be the latest in a series of sweeping academic changes on the Bloomington campus in the past three years that have resulted in new or reimagined areas of study including a new School of Public Health, the School of Global and International Studies, The Media School and the School of Informatics and Computing.

“Part of Indiana University’s enduring strength has always been the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of society and, by extension, our students,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said. “The creation of an engineering program on our campus will round out our academic portfolio in an important way, making the university even more attractive to top students and faculty, while also bolstering our mission to serve the needs of our home state.”

Media Contacts

Mark Land

Associate vice president, IU Communications