Demand for engineers spurs college to explore adding degree programs

engineering tourSUNY Oswego is in the process of formally proposing a new degree program in software engineering and is exploring possible new programs in computer and electrical engineering.

“Our discussions with employers in the region have spurred us to think in broader terms about how Oswego might help meet the demand for engineers and support regional economic development,” said Provost Susan Coultrap-McQuin.

America’s need for engineers has been widely noted, including by Gov. George Pataki, state legislators and SUNY Chancellor John Ryan. In a recent report, the National Academies’ Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy documents the “worrisome indicator” that in 2004 China graduated half a million engineers, India 200,000 and the United States just 70,000.

In this region, SUNY Oswego officials have interviewed executives from Welch Allyn, Sensis Corp., Syracuse Research Corp. and other companies, who emphasized the current and future demand for engineers and the lack of a public college engineering program locally.

SUNY Oswego is working with two consultants from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering to advise on Oswego’s proposed programs in engineering. Sherra Kerns is vice president for innovation and research, and David Kerns is provost at Olin. The 4-year-old Massachusetts college offers an innovative engineering education that bridges science, technology, enterprise and society. The Kernses hold endowed faculty chairs in electrical and computer engineering at Olin.

They toured Oswego’s science and technology facilities in September on their latest visit to campus and discussed the curriculum and faculty needed to establish electrical and computer engineering programs in addition to software engineering.

Once an engineering program is eventually established, it could enroll about 150 students, Coultrap-McQuin predicted.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Joseph Grant said that Oswego’s programs would draw largely from New York state and more locally, producing graduates who would likely stay and stimulate economic development in this region, unlike private universities that draw students from other states who then leave Central New York to build careers elsewhere.

“In the areas we’re looking at, engineering programs don’t exist in Central New York at any public institution,” Grant said. “Those engineers that are produced in this area don’t necessarily stay in this area.”

As part of SUNY Oswego’s ongoing campus renovations, SWBR Architects is developing a conceptual design and program study for renovation and construction of Oswego’s science facilities that would meet the 21st century needs of Oswego’s math and science programs and accommodate the additional needs of engineering.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Engineering consultants—Dr. Anne Caraley of SUNY Oswego’s physics faculty shows the Van de Graaff accelerator lab in Snygg Hall to Dr. Sherra Kerns and Dr. David Kerns of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. The Kernses toured Oswego’s science and technology facilities in September as they consulted with Oswego faculty and administrators who are pursuing proposals for engineering programs at Oswego.

(Posted: Sep 29, 2006)