FAMU and FSU: two schools, one College of Engineering
Two strong, diverse Florida institutions pool their resources and strengths to build an engineering college that can tackle important challenges
HBCU Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) and Florida State University, part of the Florida state higher education system, teamed up in 1983 to create a joint College of Engineering. It’s housed midway between the two campuses, which are located just a few miles apart in Tallahassee.
“This unique program was created by the legislature to draw on the strengths and resources of both universities,” says Braketta Ritzenthaler, associate dean of external relations. “Our students select the campus from which they will receive their degrees, but after that, they are all College of Engineering students.”
That structure allows the college to offer a wide range of graduate programs to its 2,600 students. Masters and doctoral degrees are offered in biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical and industrial engineering. Ongoing research projects are in energy production and sustainability, affordable materials, intelligent transportation and infrastructure systems, advanced power and security systems, communication networks, aeropropulsion for the design and fabrication of aircraft, robotics and control systems and biomedical-related research.
FAMU has the largest enrollment of the HBCUs, with more than 11,000 students. This year, the university welcomed its first woman president, Elmira Mangum. The 2013 graduates of the College of Engineering were 21 percent African Americans, 17 percent Hispanics and 23 percent women. Its ninety faculty members come from twenty-two different nations. Florida State’s 40,255 students are 30 percent minorities and 57 percent women.
The joint College of Engineering’s mission calls for it to attract and graduate significant numbers of minorities and women in professional engineering, engineering instruction and research.
“Our faculty are truly at the forefront in addressing the ‘grand challenges for engineering’ as identified by the National Academy of Engineering,” says College of Engineering dean Yaw D. Yeboah. “We continually evaluate, expand and improve programs to ensure that all students are prepared for the demands of an innovative global society that provides a better place for all of us to live.”
In fall 2018 the engineering college hired an alumna, Dr Charmane V. Caldwell, as its first director of diversity and inclusion. Dr Caldwell will work on outreach and recruitment for graduate and undergrad students and address cultural issues for students and faculty. She’ll also teach a first-year engineering course.
Challenges of today and tomorrow
The National Academy of Engineering’s “grand challenges” range from making solar energy economical and developing carbon sequestration methods to engineering better medicines and preventing nuclear terror attacks. College of Engineering students have opportunities to address both those challenges and the social divide that distributes engineering’s benefits unevenly around the globe.
“Sustainable supplies of food, water and energy; protection from human violence, natural disaster and disease; full access to the joys of learning, exploration, communication and entertainment – these are goals for all the world’s people,” states the NAE’s website.
Award-winning students, important projects
At FAMU, mechanical engineering doctoral student Renee Gordon, originally from Jamaica, is the campus’ first Fulbright U.S. student. Under advisor Dr Peter Kalu, she will continue her materials research of energy efficiency in steel production. She left for Nigeria in fall 2018 to apply her process for using the cyanide-laced waste from cassava leaves to harden steel.
FSU students Puja Upadhyay, a mechanical engineering doctoral student from Nepal, and Jin Yan, an industrial and manufacturing engineering doctoral student from China, received Zonta International Amelia Earhart fellowships in 2018. The fellowships provide $10,000 awards to just thirty-five students worldwide, so having two on one campus was exceptional.
Both Upadhyay and Yan are working in aerospace research. Upadhyay came to FSU to study at the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion and works under advisor Farrukh Alvi. Her research focuses on flow field studies of commercial aircraft, specifically looking at ways to improve noise control mechanisms for aircraft. She is developing the next generation of microjets that will reduce high-frequency jet noise.
Jin Yan applied to the college from China after doing her undergraduate work in applied physics. She is working with advisor Okenwa Okoli on research in aerospace-related structural health monitoring systems. She’s developing a sensor that can detect light generated from a special material that can be embedded in high-performance composites to warn of damage.
“All three of these students have strong advisors, good researchers who are good at mentoring,” says Emmanuel Collins, chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “The success of a student is closely tied to the expertise and mentoring ability of the advisor.”
The college received ABET’s Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity in 2009. Its student body is 50 percent white, 35 percent African American and 11 percent Hispanic. Twenty-one percent of its students are female.
“Each of our component universities has its own flair, and its own impact on the College of Engineering,” Ritzenthaler says. “That makes us a good melting pot for diversity.”
Florida A&M; University
and Florida State University
College of Engineering
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