Engineering program nationally ranked
Garnering honors as one of the nation's top programs, Central Michigan University's Engineering School is just getting started.
Just 10 years old CMU's program is young compared to other universities in the state. Despite it's youth, the number of students who signed engineering majors has doubled in the last three years.
CMU was able to also renew its accreditation from the Board for Engineering and Technology.
U.S. News & World Report recognized the program's impact, too. It ranked the School of Engineering and Technology 86th among the nation’s universities that offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.
In addition, the program also ranked 194 among national universities overall and 110 among top public schools.
Freshmen Amanda Starrett, left, Johnathan Orjada, center, and Michael Young, right, hang out in the Engineering and Technology building after classes on Tuesday.
The short-term goal is to be competitive with Grand Valley State University, Chen said, although the department has its sights set on being mentioned in the same breath as Western Michigan University's 40-year-old program.
The key is ABET accreditation, Chen said. CMU offers an ABET accredited bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, and has seen substantial growth over the last few years in the number of students enrolled in these programs.
Mohamad Qatu, chair of the school of engineering and technology, said accreditation is essential because it objectively shows CMU has equally good programs to other universities across the nation.
The accreditation process is comprehensive. Every six years the ABET board comes to CMU to asses the program's coursework, facilities and the competency of students and faculty.
Brian DeJong, professor of mechanical engineering, added that ABET is focused on seeing the university set and meet goals for the program.
Chen said that the standards are far more strict than what the university demands, which prepares the nearly 500 engineering and engineering technology majors to succeed after graduation.
"If a student interviews (from across the country), CMU is so far away they’ve probably never heard of us," Chen said. "But if they know we are ABET accredited, they won't ask any other questions about the quality of the program."
Qatu said the youth of the program makes it somewhat more appealing for faculty members who might otherwise be at larger institutions like the University of Michigan or Michigan State University.
A strong national focus on STEM fields lies at the heart of the growth of CMU's program. When DeJong first arrived, there were only around 10 to 15 students in a class. Now, it is upwards of 40 students per class, which he said is close to the ideal class size.
This is nowhere near what is seen at U-M, where a student may be one of 150 in a lecture hall, DeJong added.
At CMU, students get more time with advising and can speak directly with their professor. With an accredited program backing them, many of these students have better chances of getting jobs out of state after graduation.
In 2014, U.S. News & World Report rated Central Michigan University No. 1 overall for undergraduate online programs, No. 1 nationally for its online bachelor’s and master’s in education programs for veterans, No. 3 in graduate education programs for teachers and administrators, and No. 17 for its online graduate business program.
DeJong is no exception, he came to CMU in 2007 so he could get in on the ground floor and help build the program.
"My first passion is teaching," he said. "I think that is the same with many of the teachers in the department (when compared to other schools)."