Students Drawn to New Engineering Program

Posted by Paula Paine on September 10, 2014 in "Bryce Stottlemire", "Dennis Tyner", engineering, STEM, stottlemire The approval of OU’s new B.S. in Engineering degree was announced in February. This fall, there are 18 students enrolled in the introductory course.
Dr. Dennis Tyner, who founded the new program, counts that as a huge success. “With only four months to promote the new engineering program, we would have been happy to get five new students for the fall,” he says. “To have 18 only shows the niche that this program fills. I am incredibly excited to introduce these students to the world of engineering and at the same time develop their non-technical skills to make them uniquely marketable in this in-demand field.”
The new major combines a liberal arts curriculum with the fundamental coursework in the field of engineering, allowing students to participate in a powerful academic experience that helps them develop not only the technical skills that are expected of all engineers, but also the soft skills often missing from an engineer’s education. It is perfect for students who don’t want to get swallowed up in a large school and for those who may not know what area of engineering they want to specialize in just yet. It also provides students with numerous opportunities for involvement beyond the classroom – 18 athletic teams, more than 30 student organizations, multiple music groups, theatre, and ministry – that they may not have an opportunity to participate in at a larger school.
Bryce Stottlemire of Oskaloosa, Kansas, is one of the new students enrolled in the engineering program. He is also playing baseball for the University and is involved in activities on campus. “Ottawa was already one of my top choices before they introduced the engineering program,” he says, “but when they decided to start the program, I was set on going to Ottawa. Some may see going to a place with a new program as a major risk, but I see it as an opportunity. I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

In combination with hands-on laboratories and practical and theoretical mathematics courses, the students’ engineering education will culminate in a senior-level design course in which they apply the skills and knowledge they’ve gained throughout their academic experience to the solution of an open-ended problem. To gain valuable industrial experience during their time in the engineering program, students will also be encouraged to intern at a partner engineering firm, which will allow them to put their education into practice in a real-world setting.
While a liberal arts based engineering program is a relative novelty, it is consistent with market needs within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) segment as outlined by Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, director of the Edvance Foundation, in a February 17, 2014, Huffington Post article titled “Show Me the Money: Higher Education and the Workforce”:

“American employers must be more clear about what skills they seek and will need. Employers value the ability to articulate, write, apply quantitative methods, use technology, and work in collaborative settings as the foundational prerequisites for employment. As such, they must become the most vocal supporters of a liberal arts education which does these things for them.

“Pure and simple - it’s what liberal arts graduates bring to the table. And, it’s the value added that makes STEM graduates exposed to a liberal arts education outstanding employees.”

Research indicates that within 150 miles of Kansas City, there are approximately two engineering jobs for every one applicant. When expanded to the eight surrounding states, the ratio rises to more than 3:1. The average starting salary for general engineers in the Plains States ranges from $50,000 to $73,000, compared to $35,000-$50,000 for graduates in most other disciplines. If engineers go on to graduate school, their entry-level earning potential surges by at least 10 percent.
The engineering program currently has a need for laboratory equipment. If you are interested in helping meet this need, contact Paul Bean, VP for Advancement, at 785-248-2330, or