Special Report: Engineering Programs Flourish at Faithful Catholic Colleges
The expansion of faithful Catholic higher education and the growing options for Catholic families are evidenced in the successful and emerging engineering programs at several colleges recommended in The Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
So we decided to take a closer look at these high-demand engineering programs and how they fit with a solid liberal arts formation. We also spoke with several educators at the colleges to learn more about their respective programs and the benefits of pursuing a degree in engineering at a faithful college.
There can be many tough decisions when selecting a college, but having to choose between faithful Catholic education and a degree in engineering should not be one of them, the educators agreed.
“Catholics need to succeed in the sciences to make an impacton the most important developments of our time,” said Dr. Stephen Minnis, president of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. “Students don’t just learn information or a skill—they become the person God wants them to be and the world needs.”
Some colleges—like Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and the University of Dallas (UD) and University of St. Thomas-Houston (UST) in Texas—offer cooperative programs in which students can receive a Catholic liberal arts and science foundation before finishing an engineering degree at another respected institution.
Other colleges—like Benedictine College, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and University of Mary (U-Mary) in Bismarck, N.D.—offer engineering programs that keep students on campus for the duration of their degree.
Altogether, the colleges offer four- or five-year programs, dual degree programs and a variety of engineering degrees, including aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, mechanical, petroleum and software engineering.
More than Engineering
When educating students in engineering at a Catholic college, it is critical that the program carry into the world of technology the college’s Catholic mission, said Dr. Dominic Aquila, provost and vice president for academic affairs at UST.
“In particular this means that the first principle of the engineering program is that the creation, discovery and transfer of knowledge reflects a profound and complete respect for the dignity of all persons and for the greater common good of humanity,” he said.
Pursuing an engineering degree at a faithful Catholic college is about more than just the engineering degree. A Catholic college affords students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Catholic intellectual tradition, faith formation, campus liturgical life and a community that supports their growth in the faith.
This all stems from Catholic colleges being “mission-driven,” said Minnis. Because of their Catholic identity and mission, faithful colleges can integrate community, faith and scholarship in every aspect of campus life “from the residence halls to the classrooms,” he added.
“During the entire course of the program they gain the technical expertise required for a successful career,” said Dr. Sally Hicks, who servers as professor and chair of physics and director of the dual degree engineering program at UD. At the same time, “they are simultaneously immersed in the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition.” At a Catholic college, students can take classes, study, socialize and pray with others who support them in their faith, she said.
Catholic colleges are striving to hire some of the best professors in the country, teachers who want to be more personally invested in the students.
“At Franciscan University of Steubenville, our instructors have degrees from some of the most prestigious engineering universities in the nation, including M.I.T. and Georgia Tech,” said Dr. Derek Doroski, biology professor and director of Franciscan’s dual engineering degree. “At many engineering schools the primary focus of the professor is research, while teaching is seen as an inconvenient necessity.”
Professors at Catholic colleges, however, are able to invest more in each student than is typical at a large engineering university, he continued. Faculty are also able to “integrate their faith into the classroom with prayer, words and actions in many formal ways, such as starting classes with prayer, and informal ways, such as classroom discussion about faith and moral issues that intersect with the sciences.”
No Compromise on Faithful Education
The benefits of a Catholic liberal arts education is not worth compromising, educators agreed. Each of the colleges boasts a strong liberal arts curriculum, which improves both the individual person and prepares them for a future career in engineering.
“Where else can you learn theology from Scott Hahn and get an engineering degree at the same time?” Doroski asked. “Students will not only gain technical proficiency from engineering classes, but they will be aided in their personal development through core classes and the faith-filled culture.”
You can’t beat receiving an excellent degree in engineering alongside the opportunity to take classes with world-class theologians and philosophers, echoed Dr. Darrin Muggli, professor and chair of the engineering department at Benedictine.
This rich Catholic foundation would not be offered, at least not in its entirety, at a secular institution, Hicks explained. Traits gained from a liberal arts education “transcend all disciplines,” she said. “Engineers with this background will be better engineers because they write within a framework of history and tradition and not just within a framework of engineering.”
“Secular universities often produce one-sided individuals, said Dr. Terry Pilling, assistant professor of physics and engineering at U-Mary. However, the influence of a strong Catholic education, such as the one at U-Mary, “results in engineers that are not only top professionals at their workplace, but also multifaceted individuals in their home life who are friendly neighbors and active members of their communities.”
Faithful Catholics in the World
Eventually, engineering students will graduate and enter the working world—this is where the rubber really meets the road and the benefits of a Catholic education manifest themselves.
“Students in a faithfully Catholic institution gain a sense of belonging to a larger civilization and the whole of creation,” said Dr. David Fleischacker, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at U-Mary. Because of this, they leave with a deeper sense of the importance of their education in the truths of the Catholic faith.
“This sense will center upon how prudence and courage within engineering provide a way of life that is a creative participation in the unfolding beauty of our world,” he said. “They will come to know how both reason and Revelation lifts the mind and heart to a higher level of ingenuity and creativity and that it liberates them to be truly effective engineers.”
“Frankly, because of the way that secular institutions have understood the separation of church and state, they simply cannot manifest to students the more significant role that engineering plays within the building of human civilization and its proper place within the entire common good, both temporal and eternal,” said Fleischacker.
A Catholic engineer is someone who “never loses sight of the element of service, especially to those in communities that are underserved by the amenities that engineering can provide to improve the quality of life,” Aquila said.
Parents and students have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to engineering and the sciences. Faithful Catholic colleges are meeting the growing need, and they are doing it without relaxing Catholic identity.
Catholic colleges are closing the gap on their secular neighbors because they can offer something that other colleges cannot: excellent teachers that are personally invested in the students, facilities that are growing and improving every year, a strong liberal arts curriculum and a strong Catholic identity that will benefit students for the rest of their lives.
“Our students are immersed in a culture that promotes Catholic values and encourages and challenges students to live out their faith enthusiastically,” Muggli said. “[S]tudents do not have to choose between an authentic Catholic identity and an excellent engineering education, they can receive both.”
Engineering Programs at Newman Guide Catholic Colleges: 2015-2016
4.5 Year Dual Degree Program
Students can now complete two degrees in 4.5-5 years through Benedictine’s dual degree program with the University of North Dakota (UND). Students will receive a B.S. in General Engineering from Benedictine and a B.S. in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, or Mechanical Engineering (ABET accredited) from UND. Students remain on Benedictine’s campus for all classes and labs.
The Catholic University of America
4 Year Program
Students have the opportunity to pursue a B.S. in Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Computer Science, and Biomedical Engineering from Catholic University (ABET accredited). Students can also pursue an interdisciplinary route leading to a B.S. in Engineering.
Dual Degree Program
A dual degree program is available for students interested in combining Architecture and Engineering which leads to a B.S. in Architecture and B.S. in Civil Engineering.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
5 Year Dual Degree Program
The 3+2 program with the University of Notre Dame in Civil, Mechanical, or Aerospace Engineering requires three years at Franciscan and then two years at Notre Dame’s School of Engineering. Students finish with a bachelor’s degree from each university: a B.A. in Mathematical Science from Franciscan and B.S. in Engineering from Notre Dame.
4 Year Dual Degree Program
The 2+2 program gives students two years at Franciscan and two years at Gannon (ABET accredited) or Dayton (ABET accredited). Through the program with Gannon, students earn an associate degree in General Studies from Franciscan and a B.S. in Biomedical, Electrical, Computer, Environmental, Mechanical, or Software Engineering from Gannon. With the Dayton program, they graduate with an associate degree in General Studies from Franciscan and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Dayton.
University of Dallas
5 Year Dual Degree Program
Students at the University of Dallas (UD) have the opportunity to pursue a cooperative degree in Electrical Engineering through UD and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) Electrical Engineering Department. The dual degree program is designed for the well-prepared student to be able to complete two degrees: a B.A. in Physics from UD and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from UTA (ABET accredited). Students can obtain a B.S. in Physics from UD if they complete the additional research and course requirements. The program is unique in that students take classes from both institutions beginning in their freshman year.
University of St.Thomas
5 Year Dual Degree Program
In the 3+2 program, students earn two degrees: a B.A. in Applied Mathematics from St. Thomas and a B.S. degree in their chosen engineering discipline at the cooperative engineering school upon completion of both programs. After three years at UST, students transfer to an engineering school, such as the University of Houston, Texas A&M University, the University of Notre Dame, or the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Students should contact the department chair early in their first year to discuss requirements.
University of Mary
5 Year Dual Degree Program
Students can earn an ABET accredited degree through a collaborative relationship that the University of Mary has with the University of North Dakota (UND). Five majors are offered in Engineering, including Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, Petroleum, and Chemical.
The students will receive two degrees: a B.S. in the major taken from UND, and a B.A. or B.S. in Engineering Science from the University of Mary. Students stay at the University of Mary for the entire duration but attend intensive laboratory experiences at UND for two weeks each of two summers. Within a few years, the University of Mary will be the sole deliverer of some if not all of these degrees and majors.