Carl Locke, dean of the Kansas University School of Engineering, is not shy about praising his students.
"I believe we have the finest students on campus," said Locke, basing his assessment on average ACT scores.
And he also says he has confidence in his students' abilities to adapt to new professional pressures tied to society's concern about the environment.
"The only way to correct those problems will be by good engineering solutions," Locke said, noting the school has developed a two-fold plan of attack to train students to be environmentally sensitive engineers.
The plan requires that professors emphasize the necessity of environmental considerations on all engineering projects and that students research possible corrections to environmental damage already caused by engineering.
LOCKE, WHO HAS been with the school since 1986, also represents KU on a coalition of universities working to keep their engineering programs up-to-date.
Other coalition schools are Kansas State University, Wichita State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Missouri at Columbia, Oklahoma University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas.
Prompted by a request from the National Science Foundation 2 years ago, the coalition "looks at how to continue to improve the engineering program, which includes things like promoting responsibility to environmental concerns and world competition," Locke explained.
HE SAID ONE trend that coalition members, and colleges across the nation, are tracking is an overall drop in engineering enrollments. Reasons for the decrease include a declining population of U.S. high school students, diminished student interest in math and science courses and greater interest is business courses.
"Engineering is perceived as a way of making big bucks, but people are now focusing on business as a quicker way to money," Locke said.
To balance such enrollment trends over the years, the KU school, like many other professional schools on campus, has adopted an "enrollment management" plan that limits the number of undergraduates in each department.
Such limitations are intended to keep the size of the school consistent, Locke said.
"THIS IS THE first year for the plan, so it will be interesting to see how it affects the student body."
He said Kansas was one of only a few state universities with an open enrollment policy, which means that any graduate of an accredited Kansas high school is guaranteed admission to the university.
"But now, in addition to meeting requirements in math and science to be admitted to the engineering school," he said, "there will be limits to the numbers."