The University of St. Thomas’ School of Engineering will begin offering a civil engineering major in fall 2017.

Civil engineering will join mechanical, electrical and computer engineering as major options in the growing School of Engineering, which has grown by nearly 80 percent in credits generated over the last decade.

“The excitement from around the community, the data showing the need for this, mission fit, what students are saying – it all seems to be coming together and pointing in the right direction,” Dean Don Weinkauf said.

Center for Engineering Education Director Deb Besser helped lead a lengthy market and curriculum analysis over the last year-plus, which included developing the curriculum with advisement from a working group of professional engineers from government and private sectors. Weinkauf said meeting with regional CEOs helped solidify the idea that there is a large desire for civil engineering graduates with a St. Thomas education.

“We looked at the market, current degree production, and there’s a pretty good argument for opportunities for our students in the future,” he said, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show strong growth projections and a dearth of projected degrees compared to the number of jobs needed.

“There truly is a need for this,” Besser said.

Besser will join two newly hired faculty members as the program’s founding teaching core. Weinkauf said a huge benefit to expanding to include a civil engineering major is the strong overlap with the existing mechanical engineering curriculum, so – outside of a freshman survey course – the new curriculum isn’t that different until students reach the end of their sophomore year.

“There won’t be the extensive starting over because it’s so well coupled to mechanical,” Weinkauf said.

The new program will make St. Thomas the only private school in Minnesota offering a B.S. in civil engineering, and it will join Marquette University as the only other private school in the Midwest region.

“The brand that we offer will be pretty distinct in this market,” Weinkauf said. “And with mission fit, if you talk about what civil engineers do, they build the things that people touch and depend upon. What better degree is there for a university that is founded on the ability to impact society and improve the community? It’s right in the wheelhouse of our mission.”

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