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ISU College of Engineering gets thumbs-up from state's higher ed board

Ralph Weisheit
The Illinois Board of Higher Education on Tuesday approved a new College of Engineering at Illinois State University.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education on Tuesday approved a new College of Engineering at Illinois State University, saying in a statement that the college is designed with an equity lens to help close long-standing gaps in enrollment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented and underserved students in the engineering field.

“The board applauds President (Terri Goss) Kinzy and her team at Illinois State University for their leadership in centering equity as they developed the College of Engineering. This is exactly the type of transformation we hoped to see when we adopted our higher education strategic plan,” said IBHE board chair John Atkinson.

There college will include a Department of Electrical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and three degree programs in electrical, mechanical, and general engineering. ISU has targeted the fall of 2025 for enrollment of the first class.

ISU has estimated an initial 130 students, rising to 520 students in the fourth year. Goss Kinzy said the four-year goal is aspirational.

“The vision for the college centers on meeting the national need to grow and diversify the STEM pipeline, creating more educational opportunities for underrepresented and underserved students to successfully enter engineering professions," said Goss Kinzy. "The departments and degree programs will also foster interactive collaboration with other colleges and units across the University and community colleges.”

ISU said it has plans to exceed state and national trends for enrollment, retention, and degree completion of historically underrepresented and underserved students. These include recruiting a diverse cohort of engineering students, including students transferring from community colleges, offering robust financial aid as well as academic supports, including a residential living and learning community.

“Illinois State understands that our whole state is stronger when more of our residents have access to opportunities in STEM, and I applaud the university’s commitment to build an engineering program that opens doors for traditionally underrepresented students,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.

Recruiting and retaining faculty, staff, and administrators from historically underserved and underrepresented groups also will be a priority.

"We will be very intentional, in making sure that we're an attractive workplace for diverse faculty, that we have a very inclusive hiring process, which we do with our search advocates. We're going to be putting additional funding into startup packages to increase the representation on our campus. And so this goes right into the plans that we already have," said Goss Kinzy.

ISU will renovate space in the John Green Building, across the street from University High School on Gregory Street, to house the engineering program. The building was historically used for dining preparation, but Goss Kinzy said that work has moved directly to dining halls.

"So, it's actually space that will be perfect for the College of Engineering. It's got big high ceilings. It's got big loading docks. And those are actually the things you need for the sort of space that you use for engineering labs," said Goss Kinzy, adding ISU will begin with funding to hire a founding dean, administrative staff, and department chairs.

"This is not something where the board of trustees will be approving tens of millions of dollars at the next meeting. We'll be rolling this out in a very staged and very thoughtful way," said Goss Kinzy.

Money to fund staffing, space and equipment will come from operating and reserve funds.

The president also reacted to the props given by the Pritzker and the IBHE chair.

"We appreciate that Gov. Pritzker and IBHE want the state to, I'll take the words from our new basketball coach, get our swagger back in higher education," said Goss Kinzy.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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