By Julie Riddle, '92
Think engineers sit isolated in cubicles all day, doing calculations? Not so, says Whitworth Professor of Physics Steven Zemke, a mechanical engineer who joined the faculty this fall. Zemke will teach in Whitworth's new engineering degree program when it launches in fall 2017.
"It's much more common for an engineer to work on a team, with a large number of interpersonal interactions, and to work with problems that have many non-technical constraints," he says. "So listening, writing, reading, presenting and collaborating are paramount skillsets for an engineer."
Engineering has also become highly interdisciplinary, Zemke says. A team of mechanical engineers, for example, will work with teams of electrical, firmware, protocol, manufacturing and procurement engineers. Enter Whitworth's newly approved B.S. in engineering degree, which will replace the B.S. in engineering physics.
"The degree will be more interdisciplinary," Zemke says. "It will also depend on Whitworth's solid liberal arts education, which will prepare our engineering graduates to work in more than just the technical realm."
Major changes include a variety of new classes, as well as 20 more credits in engineering science and six more credits in engineering design. Whitworth will continue to offer its 3-2 dual degree engineering program, in which students study for two years at partner institutions nationwide.
"Our students have wanted an option for an accredited engineering degree that could be completed solely at Whitworth," says department chair John Larkin. "They are involved in many on-campus activities, and they don't want to leave the community they love after their junior year, as they have to do for the 3-2 program."
The B.S. in engineering is designed to meet the standards of ABET, the engineering accreditation organization. ABET accreditation will assist students in landing jobs after graduation and earning an engineering license. "Our engineering-physics students have also been highly successful in top-ranked engineering graduate programs, and we want to continue that tradition," Larkin says.
Whitworth currently has three faculty members with engineering backgrounds: Kamesh Sankaran (mechanical and aerospace engineering); Markus Ong (materials science and engineering); and Steven Zemke (mechanical engineering). A fourth professor, most likely one with a background in electrical engineering, will be hired for fall 2018.
"Will our B.S. in engineering program educate engineers for every possible engineering position? No, but no program does," Zemke says. "Will we educate engineers who contribute to society and honor God? Of course. We would think of nothing less."