A five-year engineering program at Elon University is in the works. The new program will allow students to stay at Elon for the entirety of their engineering degree, rather than transfer after three years, which is how the program works now.

Elon’s engineering department currently operates under a dual-degree program: students complete three years of their degree at Elon and two years at a partner institution. But not for much longer. 

Sirena Hargrove-Leak, assistant professor of engineering, has been with Elon since 2004. She has witnessed the maturation of the dual-degree engineering program, which began in 1999.

Because of her background with the engineering program, Hargrove-Leak has been especially involved in the formation of the five-year engineering program at Elon.  She summarized the five-year program as a “continuation” of the dual degree program — except that the entirety of the program would be completed at Elon. 

“We think that it offers students more options for their engineering studies,” she said.

Elon originally based the dual-degree program off a model from Jacksonville University in Florida.  Elon’s administration saw that its engineering program was successful and recognized it attracted strong math and science students.

“Seeing that success, the administration here at Elon thought it would be a great addition to the program here,” Hargrove-Leak said.

While the dual-degree program has seen growth since its inception, the decision to incorporate the five-year engineering program at Elon was ultimately based off feedback from current engineering students. Hargrove-Leak said an overwhelming number of responses from a survey indicated most engineering students would prefer to continue their education at Elon.

“That’s the hardest thing — having to leave after only three years, the way our program is currently structured,” Hargrove-Leak said.

At the moment, it hasn’t been determined when the five-year engineering program will go into effect. New facilities need to be built to accommodate the extensive engineering labs required for the five-year program. 

Additionally, Elon will need to complete an accreditation process. Hargrove-Leak noted that once that process begins, the department will be able to determine a timeline for the expansion of the program. Elon will also need to hire more faculty members to accommodate the new curriculum.

“Clearly, we have a lot of work to do, and it requires resources,” Hargrove-Leak said.

A new engineering faculty member that specializes in biomedical engineering has already been hired and will begin teaching in fall 2015. 

Scott Wolter, associate professor of engineering, has also been contributing to the five-year program. He participated in a committee last year to determine the future of the engineering program at Elon. 

“We evaluated several peer and aspirant engineering programs around the country and considered the types of degree offerings which would best fit our strengths at Elon,” Wolter said. “Subsequently, we proposed biomedical, environmental, computer and general engineering degrees as those that we felt would best fit our strengths and capabilities at Elon and our student’s interests.” 

With the five-year program, degrees in biomedical, computer and environmental engineering would be available to Elon students. 

Currently, the dual-degree program offers six concentrations, including these three areas of study.  If future students would like to pursue the other areas of engineering currently offered as concentrations, including engineering physics, engineering mathematics and chemical engineering, then they would continue on the current dual-degree track.

Options for students who would like to complete the five-year program in four years will be available to students, and the dual-degree program will continue to be a possibility. The goal is to provide students with more options and flexibility as they earn their engineering degree.

“My sense is that as the engineering program continues to grow, our engineering students will have opportunities to positively impact our world,” Wolter said. “I believe there are additional opportunities to interact with the school of business and entrepreneurship program at Elon as the engineering faculty develop their research programs.”

Hargrove-Leak is looking forward to the benefits for students, such as internship opportunities that may present themselves as a result of the new program.

“I am always student-centered, so I’m just excited about the possibilities that this change holds for our students,” Hargrove-Leak said.


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