Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Oct. 10, 1997

Campaign funds will further Engineering's 're- engineering' goals

by Skip Derra

Engineering Dean Jim Melsa has a big hole to fill on the west side of campus. But he doesn't expect that filling it with Stanley and Helen Howe Hall, Phase I of the Engineering Teaching and Research Complex (ETRC), will over-extend the college. That's because more than 600 people and companies already have committed some $23.7 million to the ETRC, clearly grassroots support for the largest building project in Iowa State's history.

While this support was matched with $32 million from the state and some federal money, Melsa says private giving played an important role in making ETRC a reality.

"The realization of ETRC, of Howe Hall, simply would not have been possible without the immense amounts of private giving to this project," Melsa said.

ETRC is the cornerstone of the College of Engineering's $53.25 million portion of the ISU Foundation's $300 million capital campaign, Campaign Destiny. Buildings and equipment make up $23.25 million (44 percent) of the college's total campaign goal and ETRC accounts for $15 million of that amount. (Some of ETRC's private funding is not counted in the current campaign.)

Other components of Engineering's campaign include $18 million for endowments, $5 million for new and enhanced programs and $3 million for student financial aid.

"ETRC is going to provide us with a flagship for the College of Engineering for the next millennium," Melsa said. "It will allow us to rearrange classroom space to make it easier to bring into play our learning-based, collaborative-education models. It will give us new space for some exciting research projects in the virtual reality area, and it will provide much needed space for the whole college."

Melsa said the learning-based, collaborative-education models accentuate active learning and participation in projects in which students employ the engineering principles they learn. This is a move away from the traditional method of lecturing students on engineering principles.

ETRC will include high-tech teaching classrooms with the latest in computer and visualization methods. It will be the home of industrial research projects in which students participate. And it will have updated distance learning facilities to bring engineers from the real world into the ETRC classrooms. It's engineering education with a real-world flavor.

Once the $61 million, two-building complex is completed in December 2001 and departments begin to move in, there will be a ripple effect throughout the college as space is freed for other cramped units. To facilitate the change and modernize space, the college has earmarked $5.25 million from the campaign for building renovations.

With ETRC fund raising nearly complete, the college will focus on raising funds for endowments, the second largest portion (34 percent) of its campaign. The endowments will fund eight chairs, two professorships, four faculty development programs, undergraduate and graduate scholarships and an equipment fund.

Already the college has established several new chairs, including the Stanley chair in interdisciplinary engineering and the Wilson chair in aerospace engineering. It has plans to establish a chair in several hot engineering areas, like water quality and signal processing and information technology.

"We want to raise the general quality of the programs by raising the general quality of the faculty," Melsa said.

"Top engineering schools -- the Berkeleys, the Illinois', the Purdues, the Michigans --have a huge percentage of their senior faculty in endowed chairs," Melsa said. "To get the top people, we need to have a 'package' that will attract them."

The college also has set aside $5 million for new and enhanced programs. Of this, $3 million will go for student program support and $2 million for the virtual reality and synthetic environments program, an area in which Iowa State has become a national leader.

Melsa said the overall goal of the campaign is to help update engineering education, and enhance and expand the student's learning experience.

"We are changing the nature of the students we turn out," Melsa said. "They will not only be technically qualified, but will work in teams, have global perspectives and leadership qualities, and they will communicate well.

"We need to prepare our students to be most successful and most attractive to the companies looking to hire them," he said.

Iowa State homepage

Inside Iowa State,, University Relations
Copyright © 1997, Iowa State University, all rights reserved
Revised 10/9/97