The Miami Report

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Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056
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A conversation with Acting Dean Donald Byrkett

What’s going on in the school?

One of the most exciting things going on right now is a name change. We are now called the School of Engineering and Applied Science. This should provide more visibility to the engineering programs in our division, which are seven of our 12 programs.

The other issue, of course, is that I am in an acting dean position. We had a nice stable situation with the same dean for 11 years, and it’s exciting for our division to be out looking for a new dean. We’re also spending quite a bit of time and energy recruiting students. We’re hoping that having the name engineering in our title will help us recruit additional students in our engineering and engineering related programs. We are also working hard to recruit strong students in systems analysis and nursing.

What is the biggest challenge facing the school today?

Distance learning is an issue. We’ve experimented with courses held on the Hamilton campus taught through distance learning on the Middletown campus, and vice versa. We have also experimented with offering courses from the regional campuses to Columbus State. The instructor alternated weeks going from one campus to the other. This summer, we had an instructor offer a class over the Web. Right now, it’s not clear how big of a role distance learning will take, but we are looking at it as a viable option in several areas.

In nursing, the demand for baccalaureate degrees is increasing. We’ve always had a strong associate program and a bachelor’s completion program. Now, we’re interested in developing a more generic baccalaureate program in nursing on the Oxford campus. The transition from what we’ve had in nursing to this new baccalaureate program will definitely be an issue. In engineering, equipment issues and keeping up with technology are always challenging.

What new initiatives are planned or under way?

We are beginning to develop plans for additional engineering programs. One area we are looking into is computer engineering, which would combine some of the electrical engineering expertise in the manufacturing engineering department with the computing expertise in systems analysis. We could begin with a computer engineering minor or a computer engineering option in our engineering management program as we build up expertise in this area. Perhaps a little further down the road, electrical engineering is a possibility.

On the regional campus, we have a systems analysis coordinator and faculty that teach several terminal associate degree specialties, as well as a transfer option program to the Oxford baccalaureate program. We are investigating some organization changes that will make us more responsive to the rapidly changing needs for two-year, computer technology education. One possibility is to form a separate regional campus department in computer sciences technology.

Another initiative that we have been working on over the past two years is the issue of making our labs safer. We are increasing the safety training of our students and faculty, publicizing and enforcing safety rules in our labs and identifying and correcting hazardous situations. We have made a lot of progress over the past couple of years, but we still have a lot of work to do.

We’re also developing space plans for a future renovation of Kreger Hall. Currently, we’re somewhat spread out, with a large part of the division in Gaskill Hall. We’re looking at our space needs to determine if all of the engineering and applied science departments can be under one roof.

What success has the school recently enjoyed?

One of things we’ve been doing a lot of is accreditation. Just in the past year, we received accreditation for our baccalaureate degrees in manufacturing engineering and paper science and engineering and our associate degree in nursing. We have in previous years received accreditation of our associate degree program in engineering technology and our bachelor’s completion degree program in nursing.

Another success in the last few years is our rising enrollment. Last year, the total enrollment in our division went up 12 percent. This year, if we look at first-year students, it’s up 21 percent. Majors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science continue to enjoy nearly 100 percent placement in jobs related to their field of study.

In what ways has the school connected with the broader community?

One of our most important efforts and greatest successes is IDS 159, a course originally created and promoted by engineering and applied science called Strength Through Cultural Diversity. We’re pleased that it has become a very popular course. This semester, we have 27 sections of the course, with instructors from many parts of the university teaching it. It’s a nice connection to the community that also allows our students to see and appreciate other points of view.

Another example is our interdisciplinary engineering management program which combines engineering and business. Graduates of this program combine a strong science and technology background (in areas of manufacturing engineering, paper science and engineering, and environmental engineering) with a fundamental knowledge of accounting, management and marketing from the school of business.

Outside the university, many of our engineering and systems analysis students do internships and co-ops with industry, and our nursing students have clinical classes in hospitals and other local agencies. We also have an active industrial advisory council that keeps us linked up with activities in the outside world. Also, for the past several years we have coordinated with M2SE (Minorities in Math, Science, and Engineering) to offer the ESTEEM program which is a summer camp to promote interest in math and science among 7th- and 8th-grade multicultural students. This summer camp program includes participation from many areas of the campus.

What is the school doing to enhance diversity?

Engineering and Applied Science has an active diversity committee within the division. It consists of representatives from each department and a corresponding committee on our advisory council. That group was responsible for developing our own divisional diversity plan. In that plan, there are countless steps toward recruiting and retaining minority students. A lot of those steps seem small, but they are necessary. It is an issue we take very seriously.

We’re also experimenting this year with a series of community building workshops. The idea is to teach faculty and staff how to be more inclusive. The first workshop was a daylong session the week before classes began. We will continue with several follow-up sessions throughout the year.

What is the school doing to enhance the intellectual climate?

Most of our students think our courses are already intellectually challenging. When we ask our seniors to rate the intellectual challenge of their academic work, almost 90 percent rate us as good or excellent. That doesn’t mean that we sit on our laurels. A lot of ongoing mechanisms are in place to assess our programs and find ways of improving them. A number of faculty have taken initiatives through research grants, instructional grants or contact with industry to bring challenging and rewarding experiences into the classroom.

Date Published: 11/11/1999
Volume: 19   Number: 16


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