This fall, Ottawa University will offer a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree for the first time at the liberal arts school.
Aside from learning the technical fundamentals in the field of engineering, students will also study topics such as writing and public speaking.
One of the program’s founders, Dennis Tyner, said integrating key liberal arts curriculum into engineering coursework is important for the successful future engineer.
“Engineers solve the world’s problems by making lives easier for people,“ Tyner said. “How can you do that if you don’t understand people, other cultures and what they think?”
Ottawa University’s engineering program will push students to develop not only the fundamental knowledge needed for employment as an engineer, but also interpersonal skills. Tyner said implementing a focus on communication will make Ottawa University engineering graduates more employable, setting them apart from their peers.
“Engineers are sharp problem solvers, but don’t always know how to effectively communicate with other people,” Tyner said. “Engineers have to speak everybody’s language, but nobody speaks an engineer’s language.”
Integrating the curricula does not come without a cost, however. Tyner said the program had to trade off some of the in-depth technical education in order to provide a focus on "soft" skills.
“There are both shortcomings and strengths to our program,” Tyner said, “but while we cannot offer great depth in a particular branch of engineering, many of those skills are learned on the job.”
Tyner said the school’s new engineering program applies well to the first line of Ottawa University’s mission statement: “to provide the highest quality liberal arts and professional education."
“For years we’ve focused on liberal arts, but nobody really focused on the professional part,” Tyner said. “Our engineering program encompasses both and speaks to the heart of our mission.”