New four-year engineering program attracts more students to Southern

The new School of Engineering and Physics has many classrooms in Lynn Wood Hall.
Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)
The new School of Engineering and Physics has many classrooms in Lynn Wood Hall. Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)

Written by: Emma Boughman

Southern Adventist University introduced its new School of Engineering and Physics this fall. The school, housed in Lynn Wood Hall, now offers a bachelor’s degree in engineering on top of an associate’s degree. 

Due to the change, the school’s engineering student enrollment increased from 21 in the fall of 2022 to 44 this fall, according to Bob Young, senior vice president for Academic Administration. In total, there are 55 engineering and physics students at Southern.

Young wrote about the new program in an email to the Accent. 

“The university has been developing plans to launch an engineering program since an academic program portfolio review by Gray Associates in 2019 revealed engineering at the bachelor’s level as a high demand area of study the university should develop to round out its academic program portfolio,” Young wrote. 

Jay Anders and Tyler Vaudreuil chat in the new Electrical Conversion Lab. Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)

Tyson Hall, the new dean of the school, commented further on the enrollment in an email to the Accent.

“The engineering enrollment this year has surpassed our initial projections for the first year of the [Bachelor of Science in Engineering] program,” he wrote, “and we are excited to see the School of Engineering and Physics continue to grow in the coming years.”

As reported in a previous Accent article, many engineering students interested in Southern chose other universities or transferred in the past since Southern only offered a two-year program.

“For many years, the university has had an associate degree in engineering that prepared engineering students for transfer to other colleges and universities with four-year programs of study,” Young wrote. 

Now, with the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE), a four-year program, launched this year, the university anticipates most engineering students will pursue the BSE, Young wrote. However, the associate’s degree will still be available for students seeking a two-year program. 

A professor works with the School of Engineering and Physics’ robotic arm in its new Robotics Lab. Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)

The Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) has reviewed the program to begin the accreditation process. 

“To be eligible for initial ABET accreditation, the university must have at least one graduate from the four-year engineering program. Once the new program has a graduate, the university will submit a preliminary Self-Study Report (Readiness Review),” Young wrote.  “ABET will use this document to determine whether or not the university is ready to submit a formal Request for Evaluation for the program. Initial accreditation of the program by ABET is an 18-month process.”

Young also explained that the school changed its name from the Physics and Engineering Department to the School of Engineering and Physics (SEP) on June 1. Because the school’s new initials were identical to those of the School of Education and Psychology, the education department requested a name change as well. Its new name is the School of Education, Psychology, and Counseling (SEPC).

In an article on Southern’s website, Director of Admissions Ryan Herman is quoted saying that this new program has been highly anticipated. The article explained that the program includes three main emphases options: “mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.” 

The program now has 11 faculty and staff members. Hall explained the new facilities in an email to the Accent.

“Lynn Wood Hall now houses three engineering faculty, five new laboratory facilities, and new classroom space,” Hall wrote. “Southern has also made a significant investment in equipping these laboratory spaces with new, state-of-the-art lab equipment to give students a quality hands-on learning environment. Additional faculty and equipment will continue to be added over the coming semesters as we grow.”

As part of the expansion, new robotics labs for upper-division robotics courses and senior projects are being developed, Hall said. The robotics lab equipment includes a robotic dog and articulating and SCARA-style robotic arms. While these are located in Lynn Wood Hall, the physics department will still reside on the first floor of Hickman Science Center.

Hall stated that this new school brings recognition to the expanding programs, faculty and student body in engineering and physics education. 

In the article on Southern’s website, Hall is quoted saying that this new bachelor’s program is a great addition to Southern because engineering is service-oriented, making it a perfect fit for the university and its mission. In his email to the Accent, he stated why he believes this expansion is so important.

“We believe that by starting this program, we can expand the number of engineering students experiencing a Christ-centered learning environment,” he wrote.

The university’s new bear mascot faces off with the School of Engineering and Physics’ robotic dog at Organization Showcase. Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by Evelyn Shtereva)

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