SNHU faculty highlight potential for engineering college to become talent pipeline

Long-term goal focuses on connecting underserved populations to engineering careers
From left to right: Angie Foss|!!| Gaynelle Swann|!!| James Smith|!!| Yan Xing|!!| Ghanim Aljumaily and Bo Kim.

Southern New Hampshire University highlighted its new College of Engineering, Technology and Aeronautics with a roundtable on Oct. 2 that included faculty, administrative staff and students discussing teaching techniques and industry partnerships.

“CETA is the latest incarnation of innovation,” said James Smith, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy who is heading the new College of Engineering, Technology and Aeronautics, often referred to as CETA

SNHU created CETA after the college reached a “teach out” agreement with Daniel Webster, one year ago, to accept faculty members, students and degree programs that were in jeopardy after Daniel Webster’s parent organization, ITT Educational Services, Inc. announced it would be closing the campus. At that time, SNHU also purchased manufacturing equipment and a Cessna 172 aircraft with special instrumentation from Daniel Webster.

CETA, which opened this fall to students, is housed in a warehouse just off SNHU’s primary campus. The university is constructing a new building for CETA on the main campus, expected to be completed in 2019.

Faculty members and administrative staff – some who had previously taught at Daniel Webster – stressed SNHU was investing in the program and that resources were plentiful, as well as university support. The $50 million new facility will include a computer lab, welding lab, wood shop and additional machine shop space, as well as areas for students to collaborate on design projects, including a café.

About 50 percent of the students in programs housed by CETA are transfers from Daniel Webster while the other half are new students, said Smith.

“What we tried to do is take the best of Daniel Webster and grow it,” he said.

Students in the program are learning how to teach themselves, said Carolyn Raiser, a mechanical engineer major and former Daniel Webster student.

SNHU has taken the focus away from lecturing and shifted toward teaching students to be adaptable because it’s unknown what the problems of the future will be in a fast-changing career field, said Department Chair and Engineering Professor Ghanim Aljumaily.

Angie Foss, the associate dean of operations and innovation for CETA, explained how she instructed her class on day one to solve the challenge of transporting a ball from point A to B, using everyday materials that students built into catapults and slingshots.

But SNHU is ensuring curriculum is up to date by meeting with nearly a dozen employers on CETA’s advisory board, which includes Harvey Construction, Bosch Themotechnology Corp., Oracle, Turbocam, Raytheon, Liberty Technology, Cabot Corp. and BAE Systems.

Smith said the goal is that senior capstones will involve a group of students working to solve real industry design problems, presented by companies working with SNHU.

Gaynelle Swann, the associate dean of academics for CETA, who has over 20 years engineering experience working for Raytheon and Ford Motor Company, also noted intent to work more closely with industry generally for student projects.

“It creates the opportunity for our students to understand what it takes to solve an industry problem, but it also gives them exposure to those companies for internship experiences and to eventually work for them,” said Swann, who said the partnership could create a continuous pipeline for employers.

Greater accessibility

Another theme that was readily apparent was SNHU’s focus on inclusiveness and diversity.

“Our long-term vision is to bring affordable engineering and aeronautical education to underserved populations worldwide,” said Smith, who said only 14 percent of engineers are women.

Alijumaily noted SNHU has been a great partner in helping students with financial constraints.

For potential students who are hesitant because of their negative relationship with math, Smith explained that “math is a language” and stressed SNHU has “an incredible math department that knows how to make math fun.”

“Don’t be scared to try,” urged Swanson, “because we’re here.”

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