CORVALLIS - Just two years into a 10-year, $180-million campaign by Oregon State University to build its College of Engineering into one of the nation's top 25 engineering institutions, OSU has been ranked the 23rd largest engineering school in the nation.
According to a report by the American Society for Engineering Education, OSU's engineering undergraduate enrollment jumped nine places from last year. The ASEE report, which compares 345 engineering institutions, also ranked OSU 35th for the number of engineering bachelors degrees awarded, up from 40th last year.
"This clearly shows that we are growing faster than other engineering schools, and since most of the schools larger than OSU are top tier public engineering programs we are entering the ranks of the nation's best engineering programs," says Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering. "This increase in students, and the corresponding increase in faculty to serve them, is helping us build the critical mass we need to achieve our top-25 goal."
The recent enrollment surge has the college scrambling to hire faculty and staff to accommodate the wave of new engineering students, Adams says. "Frankly, we're growing so fast we are using industry experts to help while we hire new top professors," Adams said.
Although being ranked one of the nation's largest engineering programs does not yet make OSU a top-25 engineering institution, it is a major indicator that the college is moving quickly in that direction, Adams said. It also confirms that the top-25 campaign, launched just two years ago in an effort to meet a demand for more qualified engineers by Oregon's booming high technology economy, is proving extremely effective.
Public funding has played a key role in the recent enrollment surge, Adams said.
"The state legislature's $3 million investment in OSU engineering during the 1999-01 biennium has enabled us to grow to where we are today, the 23rd largest engineering program in the country," Adams said. "Additional public funding, coupled with private and industry support, will enable us to continue building on the phenomenal momentum already underway here."
Other important achievements are also being made, officials said. The number of new OSU engineering students who are considered "top students" - those with GPAs above 3.9 and SAT scores above 1,300 - has more than doubled over historical levels. The number of undergraduate engineering degrees awarded has climbed 13 percent. And this fall, 28 of the 34 Oregon high school seniors awarded four-year American Electronics Association scholarships have chosen to attend OSU.
Research funding across the college is up 34 percent since the campaign was launched and 20 percent in just the past year. This includes grants that are bringing several world-class research centers to the OSU campus, such as a $4.8 million Tsunami Simulation Research Center; a $5.5 million Western Region Hazardous Substance Research Center, one of only five such centers nationwide; and the $1.6 million Kiewit Center for Infrastructure Technology, which will open on campus this fall to help address the nation's crumbling infrastructure.
The campaign has also enabled OSU to expand its partnerships with industry. More than 70 Pacific Northwest companies now support some 300 OSU engineering students in the form of paid, six-month internships each year as part of the Multiple Engineering and Civil Engineering Cooperative Programs.
"We are building important bridges between OSU and industry," Adams said. "And these relationships are helping our graduates enter the job market more work-ready than ever before."
During the past two years, the college hired 17 new academic faculty members. By this fall, it plans to add 15 more.
One new hire, computer science faculty member Ron Metoyer, will bring his cutting-edge virtual reality and animation research from Georgia Tech to OSU. In addition to teaching, he plans to work with OSU's highly-ranked football program to design a virtual reality quarterback trainer for the National Football League.
To date, the campaign has generated more than $50 million in private funding, and the Oregon legislature is about to release an additional $20 million in public funds for statewide engineering education programs, including OSU.
"The groundswell of support for what we're building here at Oregon State is very encouraging," said Adams. "We want to raise the $180 million by 2005, which will give us the afterburner that will boost us into the top 25 by 2010."
OSU's College of Engineering has more than 3,200 students, 130 faculty members, and eight departments, including bioengineering; chemical; civil, construction and environmental; electrical and computer; industrial and manufacturing; mechanical; nuclear; and computer science. It offers Oregon's largest and most comprehensive engineering education program.