Rowan trustees approve engineering school growth

Rowan trustees approve engineering school growth

By Jonathan Lai, Inquirer Staff Writer

Amid a slew of administrative actions Wednesday, Rowan University's board of trustees granted the dean of its engineering school a number of requests that will keep him busy this year: a new doctoral program, an undergraduate major in engineering entrepreneurship, an undergraduate minor in civil engineering, and the renovation of its Rowan Hall engineering building.

After the board passed its stack of resolutions, Tony Lowman, the dean of the College of Engineering, reported to the board on the status of the school. His message: The College of Engineering is booming.

"We are in the process of transitioning from a college of engineering that has been known nationally as a leader in undergraduate education, and we are now transitioning into a comprehensive, research-driven college of engineering that excels at both graduate and undergraduate education," Lowman told the board. "We have a lot of exciting things going on."

From 2006 to 2009, the engineering school enrolled roughly 525 total students a year, he said; that has grown in recent years, and this year there are 1,150 undergraduate engineering students, with almost 390 of them freshmen.

The faculty has grown, Lowman told the board, adding 11 faculty members in the last year and a half.

Rowan, which last year received state designation as a research institution, has put the focus on sponsored research. The engineering school last year received $2.6 million in awards, Lowman said, 2.5 times increased from the year before.

And then he had an additional piece of news:

"Already this year alone - so we're only two months into the current year - we've exceeded last year's research awards," he said.

Lowman said he hopes to see $5 million in research awards this year, as the school moves toward a seven-year goal of $25 million annual funding.

Some of that research will come from graduate students, as the engineering school creates the university's first Ph.D. program. If the state gives its expected approval, Rowan will immediately be able to introduce students into the program, Lowman said: Ten master's students, who will finish that program this semester, are preparing to continue in Rowan's doctoral program, he said.

"They've decided to continue their undergraduate research into master's research, into Ph.D. programs," Lowman said after the meeting. "So if all goes well, and everything goes through the state . . . we've got the research projects waiting for them, and their master's degrees will be completed.

"So their dissertation work, we'll just ramp it up to another level," he said.

Lowman expects the first Ph.D. students to graduate in spring 2017.

Virginia Rowan Smith, a trustee whose father, Henry M. Rowan, gave the $100 million that created the College of Engineering and the new name to the school once called Glassboro State College, lauded the growth.

"Not only has the whole university transformed itself, but the College [of Engineering] really has," she said.

"I especially like the fact that they want to continue to emphasize this undergraduate education," she said. "Tony said, 'OK, we've gotten to be this great engineering school, so now we can go into the graduate and Ph.D.' But they're still making sure that they don't forget this teaching of the undergraduates."

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Date Published: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 01:15