Engineering Program Uses ?Classroom Without Walls? Approach

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Global Data Point

January 27, 2014

Benefiting from a teaching philosophy of a "classroom without walls," students in the Environmental Engineering program at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA, find themselves conducting fieldwork near campus or traveling around the globe as part of service-learning trips, such as the ongoing water remediation project in Bolivia.

Fieldwork and other outside research projects are a hallmark of the program, and the university has made a substantial investment in non-traditional, less-lecture-dependent classrooms and engineering labs to support the hands-on approach. The university's new Science Center, which opened in August 2013, features dedicated engineering labs, a field staging area, and a soil strata experimentation display module.

Developing a program that lives and breathes real-world experiences has been a top priority for department chair Dr. John Harris and faculty members Joel Bandstra, William Strosnider and Rachel Wagner. "Our students put their education into action by doing design projects for class, paid internships, summer research and engineering service projects both here in Pennsylvania and abroad," said Harris.

The relatively new bachelor's degree program in environmental engineering is already seeing strong placement rates for its first two classes of graduates, and in 2013 the program was accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the recognized accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. According to ABET, accreditation demonstrates a program's commitment to providing its students with a quality education.

In 2012, the program graduated its first class and became eligible for ABET accreditation review. "Gaining ABET-accreditation of our program at this early stage is a testament to the hard work of our academic team as well as the first students to progress through this new program," said Dr. Charles MacVean, Dean of the School of Sciences.

In the fall of 2014, Saint Francis University will launch a new bachelor's degree in Petroleum and natural Gas Engineering which will feature a significant part of the environmental engineering curriculum in coursework. The intent is to focus on stewardship and ethical leadership within the context of a rigorous engineering foundation.

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