New directions for Kansas State engineering program
K-State is benefiting from international exposure
and funding and new projects, including the new campus National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
Engineering programs are growing at Kansas State University (K-State, Manhattan, KS), thanks to a combination of government and private funding. The state stepped in with the University Engineering Initiative Act (UEIA) of 2011, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently constructing its new National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) on campus.
�The NBAF will be an incredible opportunity to work on real-world problems,� says Noel Schulz, associate dean for graduate programs. �Companies come here to be close to our resources, offering internships and research opportunities to our students.�
K-State�s 24,300 students come from all fifty states and more than ninety countries. In 2013, its College of Engineering had more than 3,300 undergraduates and 468 graduate students enrolled in eight departments.
Faculty research funding increased from $137 million in 2012 to more than $151 million in 2013. Additional funding is on track through the UEIA, which commits the state to $35 million over ten years �to increase the number of engineering graduates� and �to target engineering education efforts to fuel economic growth and business success in Kansas.�
Biocontainment joins biosafety at K-State
The Department of Homeland Security�s NBAF will be a state-of-the-art biocontainment facility to study diseases in the animal population, emerging human and animal diseases, and diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, any of which may threaten U.S. animal agriculture and public health. It will employ advanced data analytics to help track down foodborne disease outbreaks.
K-State was chosen for its expertise in veterinary, agriculture and biosecurity research and its proximity to a major hub of the veterinary pharmaceutical industry. The NBAF�s central utility plant has already been completed, with complete facility commissioning scheduled for 2021.
K-State�s Biosecurity Research Unit, a biosafety level 3 facility already on campus, provides internships for students. The labs also foster research on related subjects, such as transportation techniques, reduction of waste in perishables, and water use, to balance urban and agricultural needs. The biosecurity unit works with partners in Australia. That partnership provides an avenue of international exchange for graduate students.
Diversity grows with an international influx
A new multicultural center is planned next door to the engineering department buildings. Groundbreaking is expected in 2015, and the center is scheduled to open in 2017 or before.
�We�re very excited about the new space,� Schulz says. �This will bring international students together with African American, Hispanic and other multicultural students from across the campus.�
Manhattan, Kansas, a college town of 50,000, is much smaller than its namesake, the borough of Manhattan in New York City. �We�re the Little Apple,� says Schulz. �People here are welcoming and warm. They help each other out.� Manhattan, Kansas welcomes the university�s transient student population and also nearby Fort Riley�s military population of 18,000 active duty Army personnel. Kansas State maintains a close relationship with the base and considers itself a top military-friendly campus.
The little apple is growing. The year 2013 brought the largest number of international students in history to K-State. They come to campus for an American experience, which in turn gives American students an opportunity to work with people from other cultures. Some American students, including future engineers, spend a year in study abroad.
International experience is an advantage for future executives. Many Kansas engineering firms, and of course many national employers of engineers, have international markets. In Kansas, shoe manufacturers created special colors and designs for the 2018 World Cup in Brazil. Industrial, manufacturing and mechanical engineers work in the industry. �You may hold a job where you never leave Kansas, but the business is international,� Schulz says.
Support for first-gen students
Forty percent of K-State engineering graduate students are first-generation college students. The college considers them at risk of dropping out since they don�t have role models for college attendance in their own families. Many are Hispanic, reflecting Kansas�s increasing Hispanic population.
To assist, K-State sponsors camp and pre-college programs to support younger students in STEM disciplines. Senior and graduate students volunteer as tutors through Students Assisting Students. They meet in the expanding tutoring center, which is doubling in size with a 100,000 square-foot addition this year. First-generation students may not be aware of the paid teaching and research positions that make graduate school possible, but they get coaching from their student mentors in that area too.
�We are reaching out to those families to get their sons and daughters into engineering and other STEM fields,� Schulz says. �We are making sure we have multilingual staff to recruit and work with multicultural and international students.�
The Graduate Student Council offers campus-wide events to encourage networking and overall professional development. Minority engineering societies including AISES, NSBE, SHPE and SWE have active campus chapters. The College of Engineering helps early-career professors, women and underrepresented minorities as well as men, find mentors to support them.
�Manhattan is a small college town that has a broad perspective,� Schulz summarizes. �When you�re here, you�re part of the K-State family.�
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