Chair's Message

Welcome to the first electronic edition of CivilTalk!  We hope that a more regular communication will help you keep up with all the accomplishments and happenings here in our Department.  It feels like the pace of our work has more than doubled, so communicating more frequently only makes sense!

You undoubtedly know that the faculty and staff in our Department are the best.  I have just finished my annual stewardship interviews with each of them, and I certify that we have outstanding individuals in each of our coveted positions in the Department.  I’m also very happy with the support we receive from our adjunct faculty who shoulder a significant teaching load.

We believe that “we can be the best in the world at preparing our students for their professions.”  This simple but ambitious statement will be guiding our decisions over the next several years.  We will look at each class and experience to see what can be done to better prepare our students.  Below is a list of issues that we are currently discussing:

  • A cohort program – taking advantage of the change in missionary age and the likelihood that more of our male students will be here for four consecutive years, we’re looking at teaching our required courses just once a year.  We know this will increase class size, but emerging teaching methods can ‘reduce’ class size while providing students a cohort of friends and colleagues that will work more effectively on teams.  This is a discussion in progress and its implementation would take a few years.
  • Redistribution of scholarship monies – we are blessed to receive support from our alumni, our Scholarship Society, and our own graduate school for student support.  We will be setting aside about $40,000 per year to support new Ph.D. students.  As our Ph.D. program grows to a modest level our Master’s degree students will have a chance to work with them and emulate the doctoral students’ writing efforts.
  • Capstone experience for seniors – formerly known as Senior Design, Drs. Nelson, Fonseca  and Miller have completely re-worked this experience to feature real-world projects with real sponsors from industry or government.  The two-semester sequence includes mentoring from graduate students and an intern-like feel to the design portion of the class.  Beginning this semester, on April 12, our student team posters will be evaluated by our Scholarship Society members and any other alumni interested in participating.  We will continue to strengthen this culminating design experience until it is recognized as one of the leading programs in the country.
  • Re-thinking our Civil Engineering Seminar for senior-level students – by the time our students reach their senior year they find seminar to lack some of the luster they felt before.  We are discussing other options for them during seminar hour  – from doing research with faculty as a team to writing or professional preparation activities.  We’ll keep you posted.
  • Writing – Spencer Guthrie is heading an ad hoc committee to look at improving the writing skills of our undergraduate students.  This is a long-standing issue reported by our alumni.
  • Graduate seminar objectives – we’re discussing how to incorporate some writing instruction and practice for our graduate students in place of some of the joint meetings that feature outside speakers.  We believe this is relevant for both students and faculty.

As you can see, we’re both working hard to continue our strong academic traditions and questioning much of what we do in an effort to better prepare our students for their professions.  As we continue to move forward, please know that your feedback and contributions are always welcome.  We have the best alumni, thank you for your support of the Department!