Engineered to prosper
Steady growth in programs, facilities and stature has marked the College of Engineering’s nearly 50-year existence
Almost a half-century has passed since legislation elevated Arlington State College to a senior college. That critical bit of lawmaking also contained an important proviso: the creation of an engineering school.
The College of Engineering turns 50 on the 2009 anniversary of that legislation Sept. 1.
The Engineering II building, left, (now Nedderman Hall) opened in 1988 northwest of the Engineering I Building (now Woolf Hall), which opened in 1960.
“The strong desire of industry to have a state-supported engineering school in the North Texas area was a significant factor in gaining approval for senior-college status,” recalls President Emeritus Wendell Nedderman, UT Arlington’s first engineering dean.
Though the University now offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in numerous engineering fields, the initial requirement was that five baccalaureate programs be established: aeronautical (later changed to aerospace), civil, electrical, industrial and mechanical. Early challenges included finding adequate space, developing curriculum and recruiting faculty. It helped that a new engineering building, now called Woolf Hall, was built in 1960.
“Many of our faculty recruits were intrigued by the challenge of building a new school, virtually from the ground up,” Dr. Nedderman said. “By 1968 all five degree programs were accredited by the Engineering Council for Professional Development.”
Engineering quickly became a UT Arlington trademark, fueled by President Jack Woolf’s blueprint to add graduate programs. Master’s degrees in electrical engineering and engineering mechanics were approved in 1966, followed by civil, industrial and mechanical engineering in 1968, with others pending. But doctoral degrees were not an easy sell to UT System regents or the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.
“Many of our faculty recruits were intrigued by the challenge of building a new school, virtually from the ground up,”
Approval came in 1969 and, just as Nedderman predicted, it set a precedent. In 1971 the University’s second doctoral program—in experimental psychology—was approved.
By 1982 the College of Engineering had established doctoral degrees in aerospace, civil, electrical, industrial and mechanical engineering, engineering mechanics, computer science and engineering, and materials science. A Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, offered jointly with Southwestern Medical School, was added in 1974.
New degrees and more students mandated more facilities—and more money. That problem partially eased in 1984 when UT Arlington received its first dollars from the Permanent University Fund. The next year the regents appropriated PUF resources for a 244,000-square-foot building (now Nedderman Hall), along with renovation of Woolf Hall and a 10,000-square-foot Aerospace Research Building.
Nedderman dubbed the improvements—and the new graduate programs—the “great lunge forward.” The lunge has continued under the leadership of President James D. Spaniolo and former President Robert Witt. This decade the number of faculty members has increased from 105 to 165 and enrollment from 2,700 to 3,500. More than 21,000 alumni now hold engineering degrees.
“Our growth has been substantial,” College of Engineering Dean Bill Carroll says. “The results are everywhere but probably most evident in the research area, which has grown from $8 million in 2000 to about $40 million a year today.”
He points to the 2001 opening of the Nanotechnology Research and Teaching Facility. To more research in areas like tissue engineering and medical devices. To advances in computer engineering with applications in homeland security and navigable devices. And to a national reputation in power grids, alternative fuels and smaller electronic devices.
As was the case in the mid-1980s, increased offerings require bigger and better facilities. The Civil Engineering Laboratory Building and the Optical Medical Imaging Center opened last fall. And construction is under way on the Engineering Research Complex, the cornerstone of which will be the 234,000-square-foot Engineering Research Building, due to open in 2011. Collectively, engineering facilities will grow to about 850,000 square feet.
The future looks bright for UT Arlington engineering graduates.
“With alumni from more than 100 countries, it can really be said that we are a global university,” Dr. Carroll says. “That first 50 years was great, but our potential is enormous.”
Photographs courtesy of the UTA News Service Photograph Collection, Special Collections, UT Arlington Library.