New School of Engineering unites graduate and undergraduate programs

The University of St. Thomas united its graduate and undergraduate engineering programs this summer in a new School of Engineering.

Previously, bachelor-level engineering programs were part of St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences, while master’s degrees were offered by Programs in Engineering and Technology Management.

The new School of Engineering is the latest in a series of organizational changes at St. Thomas that integrate undergraduate and graduate studies within specific fields. Other fields that have been integrated in recent years are music, English, art history, Catholic studies, business, education and social work. St. Thomas offers its 91 undergraduate majors and its 49 graduate degree programs through nine academic divisions.

St. Thomas began offering graduate-level engineering degrees in 1986 and bachelor degrees in 1994. Today it offers three graduate degrees in manufacturing, engineering and technology management as well as five certificate programs in manufacturing management, leadership, quality, product development and medical device. At the undergraduate level, it offers the bachelor of science in both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. St. Thomas is the state’s only private college or university to offer an engineering degree, and the only school to offer a concentration in mechatronics, which brings together mechanical, electrical, control systems and software engineering.

Enrollment has grown to about 250 at both graduate and undergraduate levels. At the undergraduate level, about two-thirds study mechanical engineering and one-third study electrical engineering. St. Thomas officials expect to see more growth, especially in the electrical program. St. Thomas officials also expect to see graduate enrollment double to about 500 over the next decade.

The School of Engineering is located in O’Shaughnessy Science Hall, part of the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Science and Engineering Center that opened near the corner of Summit and Cretin avenues in 1997.

When they announced the School of Engineering earlier this year, Father Dennis Dease, president, and Dr. Thomas Rochon, executive vice president and chief academic officer, said it would “enable faculty in this field to better fulfill their goal of providing a practical, values-based learning experience that produces well-rounded, innovative engineers and technology leaders.”

The school, they said, will continue to focus on combining applied and professional studies in the use of technology to better the human condition.

“It also will be positioned to address the growing shortage of engineers in the United States and specifically in Minnesota,” they added.

The St. Thomas engineering programs were developed in response to interest from both students and engineering companies from throughout the region. The School of Engineering is guided by a Board of Governors as well as a 28-member Industry Advisory Board that includes volunteer executives from industry and other universities.