Provost: ISU Engineering College will improve diversity, graduation rates

Illinois State University
Illinois State University(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 7:25 PM CDT
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NORMAL (WEEK) - After a round of proposals, Illinois State University is in the final stages of approval for its new College of Engineering. Project leaders - and local engineering firms alike - believe it will benefit the area in more ways than one.

ISU Provost Aondover Tarhule says the college will help diversify the local industry, with a focus on recruiting underrepresented groups.

“In engineering programs, females make up only about 20-22% … Other types of diversity, like race and ethnicity, are even worse,” Tarhule said.

The approval process is a lengthy one - ISU hired a team of market analysts and consumer professionals, they detemined central Illinois - and the state as a whole - has a big need for electrical and mechanical engineers.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education agreed with its approval earlier in March.

“ISU provided clear evidence in their application that this new College of Engineering is going to meet key workforce needs for the state of Illinois and the region,” IBHE executive deputy director Stephanie Bernoteit said.

Another goal of the college is to improve graduation rates.

Tarhule said studies show only around 50% of engineering students actually finish their degree. He adds they will beat that statistic by introducing engineering courses as early as freshman year.

“We would like to do better than that. So, we have very intentionally designed wraparound support, infrastructure and systems to make sure we will be graduating our students at a much higher rate,” Tarhule said.

For local engineering and consulting firms like Keith Engineering Design in Peoria, this is a welcome sight.

“You’re going to start to see more and more engineers if the community is growing and expanding. It is a popular place to go,” said founder and president Brian Keith, whose business focuses on engineering consulting for schools and hospitals.

Tarhule says the final step for approval falls to the ISU Board of Trustees. Once they give the green light, the university can begin getting companies like Rivian and Caterpillar involved in creating partnerships and internship opportunities.

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