2012-01-25 / Front Page

A head start for engineers

UMaine and SMCC launch shared program at Brunswick Landing
BY BETH BROGAN
Times Record Staff

BRUNSWICK — Facing a shortage of engineers in the state — as well as a lack of good-paying jobs — the University of Maine and Southern Maine Community College have collaborated to design a new engineering program that will allow students to attend classes at Brunswick Landing for two years before completing their degree work at the University of Maine in Orono.

The Brunswick Engineering Program at Brunswick Landing, on the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, is scheduled to open in the fall. It will provide a new “path” to becoming an engineer, according to Dana Humphrey, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine.

“What we have is two new ways for students to enter engineering,” he said. “One is for academically prepared students to enter directly and be a University of Maine engineering student. The second is a pre-engineering program, which is a great way for students who need a little bit of extra help in math and some of the other basic courses. It’s also a great program for part-time students who want to pursue engineering technology degrees.”

In the Brunswick Engineering Program, offered as a collaboration between the two schools, students will be admitted to the engineering program, spend the first two years in Brunswick, and graduate with a bachelor of science in engineering in four years.

Students can pursue degrees in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering — all degrees needed by companies including Bath Iron Works, Texas Instruments in South Portland and a range of other companies in the area, Humphrey said.

“Very much, we’re trying to produce the engineers that the industries in Maine need,” Humphrey said. “There is great demand for students who have four-year engineering degrees, as well as two- year associate’s degrees, and we’re trying to fill that need.”

Seventy percent of University of Maine engineering graduates get their first job in Maine, Humphrey said, and “virtually all of our graduates” have a job within six months of completing degree requirements.

“ It really just shows the demand for engineering and technology degrees, even in these economic times that are certainly challenging.”

The pre-engineering program is designed for students who may not have taken the math and science courses typically required for admission to traditional engineering programs.

“These students have to be ready to go into calculus, to go right into a four-year engineering program, and if they aren’t, that is an obstacle,” said Janet Sortor, vice president and dean of academic affairs at SMCC. “Our preengineering program is really focused on providing another pathway for students, kind of like a little detour that puts you back on the highway, for students who aren’t ready, either because they didn’t take the right courses in high school, or weren’t interested in engineering in high school, or for non- traditional students or career-changers.”

The program, Humphrey said, “will absolutely prepare students to enter our engineering degree program. It’s really designed to take students from where they start and get them up to speed, do some of the coursework that’s really going to count toward their degree.”

About 100 students attended classes at SMCC’s Midcoast Campus at Brunswick Landing this fall, but Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons told the Bangor Daily News in November that newly transferred land and buildings would allow the system to serve up to 2,500 students.

Humphrey and Sortor will welcome potential students to an open house on Feb. 8 at Brunswick Landing.

As an added incentive, the first 15 students to enroll in the program will receive a $1,000 scholarship, Humphrey said.

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