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Murray State celebrates innovative Institute of Engineering success

A new $35 million, 85,000-s.f. facility to house the Institute of Engineering is nearly complete.
A new $35 million, 85,000-s.f. facility to house the Institute of Engineering is nearly complete.

MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University is celebrating the success of its innovative Institute of Engineering. Launched as a pilot project in 2014, the new organizational structure brings together the University’s engineering, engineering technology, engineering graphics and design, physics and telecommunications programs into a single academic unit.

The Institute of Engineering was and remains the first and only entity in the commonwealth to offer such a broad spectrum of engineering and related STEM programs under a common, cooperative umbrella. This versatile structure has proven effective in allowing for the efficient use of faculty, laboratories and instrumentation in the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Additionally, it has produced enhanced recruitment and retention successes that have created a surge in STEM enrollments and degree attainment.

Over the three-year pilot period, the total enrollments for programs in the Institute of Engineering have increased by 24 percent. Engineering enrollment has grown by an impressive 65 percent, with engineering technology enrollments increasing by 27 percent. Engineering graphics and design has increased by 29 percent, while the statewide Program of Distinction in telecommunication systems management has shown strong student subscription as well.

Murray State has actively promoted the institute’s model, which brings all students interested in engineering and related programs to a single department for advising and career guidance. The institute is supported by a college-wide internship program dubbed “Test Drive a Racer.” This program has received national attention for its goal of providing more than $1.8 million in paid internship opportunities to students over the next decade. Seed funding for the internship program was provided through grant funding from the James Graham Brown Foundation.

“The Institute of Engineering’s recent three-year pilot period has been tremendously successful in increasing STEM enrollments, producing STEM graduates and strengthening industry partnerships in the region,” said Murray State President Bob Davies. “Our mission to be the best student-centered University is evidenced by the numerous achievements which have taken place in this initial stage. We are eager to build on this momentum from the pilot period and look forward to continuing to afford endless opportunities for our students through the Institute of Engineering.”

“The Institute of Engineering model is unique to the commonwealth in that students can pursue study in a variety of programs and technical topics,” said Steve Cobb, dean of the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “Multiple pathways for student entry and completion, along with valuable practical experience, place Murray State’s Institute of Engineering at the forefront in preparing Kentucky’s workforce for a tech-based economy.”

The growth of these high-demand STEM programs comes just as a new $35 million, 85,000-square-foot facility to house the Institute of Engineering nears completion. Classes will begin in this state-of-the-art facility in the summer of 2017.

This milestone is expected to create further interest in the University’s comprehensive array of engineering-related offerings. The University currently has ABET-accredited programs with three of the four ABET accreditation commissions, including the nationally prominent Engineering Accreditation Commission.

New initiatives are planned to begin as early as this fall with the addition of a new track in aerospace engineering, expansion of opportunities in civil, construction, electromechanical and manufacturing engineering technology, enhanced partnerships with Murray State’s Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business and Hutson School of Agriculture, summer engineering academies, dual credit partnerships with regional high schools, dedicated study abroad opportunities for STEM, streamlined transfer agreements with community colleges and targeted web-based course delivery.

“The future certainly looks bright for the Institute of Technology at Murray State,” said Danny Claiborne, chair of the Murray State Institute of Engineering. “The new Institute of Engineering facility, once completed, will continue to provide students with experiential learning opportunities that prepare them well for their chosen field.”

The Institute of Engineering has demonstrated a successful STEM education model to the region. It has proven popular with regional industry, which sees the value in the interdisciplinary and team approach to engineering education and workforce development. The model has also drawn interest in the academic community for its ability to attract and retain students with a diverse range of aptitudes and abilities, preparing them for rewarding careers in a range of engineering activities. Through this innovative approach to STEM education, the Institute of Engineering has a bright future in preparing Kentucky’s citizens for a tech-based economy.

President Davies added, “I want to thank the outstanding leadership of Dean Steve Cobb, Danny Claiborne, chairperson of the Institute, the dedication of the faculty and staff in these programs. They are the ones who had the insights and the vision to initiate these efforts and the drive to ensure their success.”