The University of Georgia’s College of Engineering is Educating the Future Workforce of our State’s Engineering Industry While engineering is not an entirely new discipline at the University of Georgia (quite the contrary, UGA graduated its first engineering students nearly 150 years ago!), the paint is barely dry on its recently created College of Engineering. Established by the Board of Regents on July 1, 2012, it had an initial enrollment of approximately 700 students when it first opened its doors. In the three years since, that number has skyrocketed; the College of Engineering is the fastest growing program at UGA and one of the fastest growing public colleges of engineering in the nation. In addition to nearly 60 faculty members, the institution now represents nearly 1,700 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. The number of students is expected to reach 2,000 within the next couple of years. To date, it has seen nearly 250 graduates, but the Class of 2017 – which coincidentally also currently numbers about 250 students – will represent the first graduating class to have worked its way through the entire program. The College of Engineering currently offers eight undergraduate Bachelor of Science degrees, five Masters of Science degrees and two Doctor of Philosophy degrees, as well as four certificates. “If you look nationally, Georgia as a state was producing 50 percent less engineering graduates than states of comparable size,” said Dr. Donald J. Leo, who assumed the helm at UGA’s College of Engineering as Dean one year to the day after its opening. “Even with schools like Georgia Tech, Mercer University and Southern Polytech, we haven’t been able to compete with the number of engineers that states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan have been supplying to the workforce. We’re hoping to change that.” Prior to the College of Engineering’s debut, engineering degrees had been a component of other colleges on the Athens campus, such as the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Once the doors were opened, the list of disciplines grew along with the student population. The college introduced Civil Engineering to UGA’s lineup in 2012, followed by Mechanical Engineering, as well as Electrical and Electronics Engineering the next year. “One of our greatest strengths is that we are housed within a liberal arts university – connecting our college with all of the stellar programs UGA has to offer,” explained Leo. “It’s where our students and program really shine. We offer a well-rounded education that doesn’t merely focus on the technical aspects. For instance, our students can combine engineering with public health, chemistry or physics for an even more specialized educational experience.” Leo believes another major advantage the College offers is its focus on integrating experiential learning throughout the curriculum at every step in the path – from incoming freshman to graduating senior. “Starting with a student’s very first semester,” says Leo, “we are not only introducing them to the fundamental principles of engineering, but also trying to expose them to the different types of engineering and the realities of being a practicing engineer.” Another advantage to having this “real world” exposure early in their academic careers is that it gives students a much more informed perspective on which engineering disciplines they may be drawn to in advance of beginning their upper-level coursework. Experiential learning opportunities have included experiences with some of Georgia’s major manufacturing facilities, including the Caterpillar plant in Athens, the Kia Motors manufacturing plant in West Point and at Georgia Power’s headquarters in Atlanta, as well as work on real-world engineering design projects. There are many opportunities for students to “learn by doing” through the College’s experiential learning program. “Students are able to apply engineering knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to multiple environments – including industry, research and the community – through engaging in hands-on work experiences,” said Kelley Saussy, Director of Experiential Programs for the College of Engineering. When the experiential learning requirement goes into effect for incoming freshmen in all of UGA’s schools, colleges and programs in fall 2016, UGA will become one of the largest public universities in the nation to provide each of its students with high-impact, experiential learning opportunities that enhance academic performance and better prepare them for graduate school or careers. In addition, the University of Georgia sets its students up for success after graduation thanks to a robust internship program and expanded co-op program, where students sign on for an entire semester of working full-time with partnering companies throughout Georgia and the nation. Included among that list of companies are Georgia Power, GE Power & Water, BMW, Merial, Kia, Gulfstream Aerospace, Caterpillar, Whiting-Turner, Turner Construction Company, Warner Robins Air Force Base, CH2M, Noramco Inc. (a Johnson & Johnson Company), Georgia Pacific, USDA, Toyota Industries of Compressor Parts America, Kubota, Dow Chemical Company, Tensar International Corporation and more. Students are expected to complete at least two semesters to be in the program, although some have had a co-op for as long as five semesters with the same company. “At the College of Engineering, we provide opportunities and tailor experiences for our students in order to strengthen their skill sets and prepare them for their transition to industry or graduate school,” added Saussy. Based on feedback from employers, what they are doing at UGA’s College of Engineering is working. Professional practice paired with experiential learning gives students a broader, more practical understanding of their field of study. “There are multiple parts to our mission,” Leo insisted. “In addition to undergraduate instruction, we are growing our research funding, graduate programs and technology transfer activities. Our students and faculty are serving the state through outreach and by building community partnerships. We have an advisory board with members from global corporations like General Electric, Siemens, Caterpillar, ThyssenKrupp, Dow AgroSciences and more to ensure that our research and educational programs meet the current and future needs of the state and the nation. It is an exciting time to be building a high-quality engineering program.” A SNAPSHOT OF DONALD J. LEO, PH.D. OCCUPATION: UGA Foundation Professor in Engineering and Dean of the College of Engineering. CAREER PRIOR TO UGA: Leo’s background includes a 15-year history at Virginia Tech, with turns as Vice President, Associate Dean and Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Prior to making the leap into academia, he spent a number of years at a professional engineering firm, which he believes gives him a very different perspective than had he spent his entire career solely in academics. He also spent two years working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – which has been described as “the Pentagon’s high-tech incubator” by The Washington Post. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS OF NOTE: He is the author of the textbook “Engineering Analysis of Smart Material Systems” (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), which is used at the senior undergraduate and graduate level at several colleges and universities. He is also a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a recipient of the Virginia Tech Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and was named Outstanding Recent Alumnus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Aerospace Engineering Department in 2004. EDUCATION: M.S. and Doctoral degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering – University of Buffalo B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign FAMILY LIFE: Leo and his wife Jeanine Alexander have two teenage boys, Matthew and Jonathan.
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