Beginning this fall, students will be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics with an emphasis in mechanical or electrical engineering at SFA. Graduates will be prepared to enter such diverse areas as mechanical controls, digital and analog electronics, instrumentation, robotics, and manufacturing process control.
Students with interests in other engineering disciplines, such as civil, petroleum, chemical, nuclear or aerospace, may still enter the pre-engineering program that has been in existence at SFA for more than 40 years. In that program, students spend two years taking courses at SFA and then transfer to an engineering school for their last two years.
For decades, SFA students in the pre-engineering program have expressed interest in staying at SFA to complete their engineering degree. In addition, local businesses have long expressed the need for such a program at SFA. “I am excited about the possibility of a local option for engineering education,” said Chad Robertson, P.E., President of the Piney Woods Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. “Currently, it can be a challenge to recruit and retain engineering graduates in the relative rural East Texas area when many of the candidates are from and are accustomed to large metropolitan locations. I think SFA offering this degree program will have a positive impact on local industry. Engineering and technical professionals are in high demand.”
Scott Thompson, Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Lockheed Martin in Lufkin, agreed, saying the availability of a four-year engineering degree will benefit the region’s economy. “Engineers are generally the driving force behind innovations and improved productivity in industries,” he said. “The need for engineers is increasing in all industries as the complexity of computer and automation technology rises. Having a local source for engineering graduates or being able to send existing employees to improve their education would be an improvement over our current situation.”
The new program will be housed in SFA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, chaired by Dr. Harry Downing. Dr. Dan Bruton will continue to serve as the department’s engineering adviser. A new electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer will be added to the department’s faculty soon, and this fall, six new engineering courses will be added to those currently being taught at SFA. The department will seek accreditation for the new degree from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
The new engineering degree further solidifies the university’s commitment to STEM education to help meet a critical need in Texas and the nation to prepare more college graduates in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A vibrant STEM workforce is vital to America’s innovative capacity and global competiveness. As America launches a national campaign to widen the STEM pipeline, institutions of higher education must find ways to recruit, retain and graduate STEM majors who are academically prepared to enter STEM careers. Stephen F. Austin State University is leading this charge across the East Texas region.