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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 31, 2006

Faculty Senate considers proposed engineering minor

by Diana Pounds

A controversial proposal to create an engineering minor especially for non-engineering students got a first airing before the Faculty Senate at its March 28 meeting.

The concept behind the proposal is that students in non-engineering fields would be better decision makers in an increasingly technological world if they had insights into the basic engineering process.

"The goal would be to revise certain aspects of engineering education so that basic concepts, precepts and principles could be readily understood by someone without elaborate mathematical and scientific preparation," said materials science and engineering professor Alan Russell, who presented the proposal on behalf of Engineering Dean Mark Kushner and the college.

Voters split on funding

The proposal was characterized as controversial by several at the meeting because it received mixed support from faculty in the College of Engineering. Russell acknowledged that the engineering faculty vote on the proposal was narrow -- 33 in favor and 29 against. He added that "no" votes mostly came from those who were dubious about the funding plan for the proposal.

Russell said the program likely would cost a few hundred thousand dollars and that Kushner proposes to fund half the costs with gifts and grants and half through reallocations of salaries of retired faculty.

Mike Olsen, mechanical engineering professor, told senators that the vote on the proposal came at a faculty meeting attended by about one-fourth of the total faculty. Many faculty members thought they could vote outside the meeting by paper ballot, he said, adding "there are a lot of upset people in Engineering."

Carolyn Heising, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering professor, said the meeting was well publicized and represented a "good turn-out" for engineering faculty meetings. "My viewpoint is that the vote was fair and square," she said.

Proposal might promote diversity

Heising indicated the proposed engineering minor might improve diversity in the college. "I think that there would be a large number of students who usually are not interested in math and science who would be interested in taking these courses," she said.

Russell said officials project 50 students would enroll in the program in the first year and 100 students would be enrolled annually in subsequent years. Students would have to complete 21 credits for the minor. As proposed, 14 departments, eight in engineering and six in other ISU colleges, would collaborate in offering courses for the minor.

The senate is expected to vote on the proposal at its April 11 meeting.

More senate coverage: Athletics director Jamie Pollard discusses his goals ... and baseball.


The concept behind a proposed engineering minor is that students in non-engineering fields would be better decision makers in an increasingly technological world if they had insights into basic engineering processes.