Engineering sees increased interest

Rick Tucker '09, a fifth-year Thayer School of Engineering B.E. candidate, works in the machine shop.

The number of students graduating with a bachelor of arts in engineering sciences or bachelor of engineering degree from the Thayer School of Engineering after a decade of relative stability is expected to increase in the coming years, according to Thayer Dean Joseph Helble.

This increased interest in engineering programs at Dartmouth is mirrored at several other Ivy League institutions.

While there are about 65 engineering majors in the Class of 2010, Helble told The Dartmouth that as many as 85 members of the Class of 2011 have filed major cards in the field. Dartmouth, one of only three Ivy League schools to offer a non-accredited bachelor of arts degree in engineering, has in recent years offered around 60 bachelor of arts degrees in engineering sciences each year, Helble said.

Helble said he expects the number of bachelor of engineering degrees awarded to similarly increase in the coming years. Over the past decade, about 75 percent of students receiving the A.B. have gone on to pursue the B.E. degree, which requires additional coursework often to the tune of an extra year at Dartmouth and prepares students to take the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying certification exam, Helble said.

Several of Dartmouth’s peer institutions reported similar increases in interest in their engineering programs. Enrollment in Princeton University’s undergraduate engineering program has been rising steadily over the past few years, Peter Bogucki, the associate dean for undergraduate affairs at Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth. Princeton’s freshman engineering class is the largest the school has ever seen, he said.

Yale University, meanwhile, has also seen a steady increase in its engineering enrollment numbers, Roman Kuc, associate dean for educational affairs at the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.

Dartmouth engineering professor Erland Schulson attributed the increased interest in engineering at Dartmouth to the strength of Thayer’s program.

“Engineering at Dartmouth is a superb education and preparation not only for the field of engineering, but for other fields as well,” he said. “I just happen to think it’s a very good education and perhaps that’s the reason it’s finally getting recognized. It’s a superb investment of time.”

Sarah Rocio ’10, who is pursuing an A.B. in engineering modified with environmental science, along with the B.E., attributed the increased interest to the program’s flexibility.

“I’ve definitely noticed, since at least my freshman year, a lot more people coming in to the A.B. program, especially trying to modify the engineering major with something else,” she said. “Now there’s even public policy or a biomedical one you can modify it with. It makes the engineering major a little less daunting.”

Despite this flexibility, several students and administrators said the extra coursework required to complete a B.E. at Thayer may dissuade some A.B. students from pursuing the degree.

Helble, however, said that this added coursework is an indication of the strong liberal arts component included in a Thayer engineering degree.

“It takes five years here because you get depth plus breadth. You get what places like IBM call T-shaped individuals,'” he said. “They have depth within a particular field of engineering, but they have breadth across disciplinary lines.”

Trey Roy ’09, who is pursuing a B.E. along with a masters of engineering management, praised the breadth of opportunities offered by Dartmouth engineering including the ability to spend time away from campus.

“I don’t know of many other schools where people are doing engineering where you can do that,” he said.

The scope of a Dartmouth engineering education may also be attractive to employers, Helble said.

Roy said that many students who graduate with engineering degrees end up working in non-engineering fields, adding that corporate recruiters often look for engineers to fill positions.

“[Corporate recruiters] told me that engineers are very good at problem solving, and that that can be applied to other fields like financial trading,” he said.

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