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ON THE SHELF - Reviewed by Robin Tatu

Letter From the President
The Transfer Option

ASEE should bolster opportunities offered by community colleges.

Walter Buchanan

By Walter Buchanan

One of my goals as ASEE president is to increase our value to faculty at two-year institutions and thereby expand their membership, which currently represents only 4 percent of our total. This can help our students, too. The cost of education at two-year institutions is much less than at four-year schools – in many cases one third as much – because of the almost total emphasis on teaching. With student debt now higher than credit card debt in the United States, it is imperative that we, as a country, deal with the rising cost of higher education. One way is to encourage students to start their academic careers at two-year colleges and then transfer to four-year institutions.

The process could begin with an effort to enhance the reputation of community colleges among high school students. College counselors in high schools could emphasize community colleges as a recognized and respectable college option and provide students with information about transfer-compatible schools and courses. When students are being informed about particular majors at certain colleges and universities, counselors would present them with the option of beginning that major at any of the community colleges that offer it and have transfer agreements with four-year institutions. They could also highlight the advantages of taking the community college route. These include, in addition to lower cost, more emphasis on teaching; a smaller student-faculty ratio, resulting in more personalized education; and a reduced need to work outside school, allowing greater focus on academics in the early years when students are trying to adjust to college.

Nearly half of STEM graduates start out at two-year schools, which provide a more personalized education at lower cost. - Walter Buchanan

Credits and Conseling

Next, educational leaders could create standardized agreements for a network of community colleges and four-year institutions that allow certain course credits to be transferred. For instance, a chemical engineering curriculum could be created that would be offered at several community colleges across the nation and would be tenderable to different four-year institutions in several states. The agreements could be regulated by ASEE, ABET, or a related organization.

We must also address the all-too-common difficulty in two-year to four-year transfers of inadequate student counseling. It is not unusual for a transfer student to lose at least a semester of student credit hours because of this problem. In addition to teaching, transfer counseling should become one of the major responsibilities of community college faculty. Experience has shown that when faculty members themselves, as opposed to external counselors, are involved in student transfer advising and articulation, the transfer process becomes smoother and more efficient. Funds and resources should be made available to train faculty and encourage them to participate enthusiastically.

I would like to see ASEE be a player in this and work with our two-year ASEE faculty members toward a solution. A proactive step might be to appoint a community college representative to the ASEE Board of Directors, giving this group of members a voice in the Society and a stronger sense of ownership. The National Science Foundation reports that 46 percent of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math began their college careers at two-year schools. If only 4 percent of our members are community college faculty, then clearly ASEE needs to increase the recruiting process.


Sharing Best Practices

In addition, one- or two-day workshops could be held at which participants from two- and four-year colleges could share best practices and successful models of transfer articulation between the two types of institutions. A community college could organize, host, and share its own model during one of these conferences. An even more effective approach would be to offer summer fellowships to faculty members at community colleges and four-year institutions to enable them to collaborate on the development of standardized articulation agreements. ASEE could encourage accreditation for pre-engineering programs since ABET currently does not accredit two-year engineering programs.

One problem ASEE members from community colleges face is a lack of money from their institutions for professional membership activity and travel. Our executive director, Norman Fortenberry, recognizes this and is looking for ways that ASEE benefits can become more affordable. For instance, ASEE is working to make its website more useful to two-year faculty, resulting in more “virtual” interactions. We can encourage attendance at sectional meetings and work to make these of increasing value to two-year faculty. New and-or outstanding community college faculty could be sponsored to attend meetings and also recognized during conferences. Publications highlighting community college outreach, teaching, and transfer achievements could be encouraged during the ASEE annual conference. Finally, since ASEE’s two-year division is focused on engineering technology rather than transfer programs, a separate division could be formed that emphasizes transfer articulations and practices.

Accepting these challenges, I believe, will bring lasting advantages to community college faculty, students, ASEE, and the country.


Walter Buchanan is president of ASEE.





Prism to Mark ASEE’s 120th Year

The May-June Prism will be a special issue devoted to the 120-year history of ASEE. Articles will explore how the Society grew alongside the broadening field of engineering and expansion of engineering departments, schools, and colleges; enduring issues in engineering education; ASEE’s international role; and its future outlook.


Tribute to Change Agents

Last month, the National Academy of Engineering awarded the $500,000 Gordon Prize to Olin’s president and first employee, Richard K. Miller; founding provost and professor David V. Kerns Jr.; and former vice president and current professor Sherra E. Kerns “for guiding the creation of Olin College and its student-centered approach to developing effective engineering leaders.”Imagine reinventing undergraduate engineering education from scratch. The revolutionaries who founded the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in 1997 had just such an opportunity. The well-endowed Massachusetts start-up has no tenure or academic departments, and it has generous merit-based scholarships for all admitted students, near parity of males and females, and a singular, interdisciplinary mission to prepare “engineering innovators” who can “engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world.”

Last month, the National Academy of Engineering awarded the $500,000 Gordon Prize to Olin’s president and first employee, Richard K. Miller; founding provost and professor David V. Kerns Jr.; and former vice president and current professor Sherra E. Kerns “for guiding the creation of Olin College and its student-centered approach to developing effective engineering leaders.” Students, for example, helped guide the development of the initial curriculum, which features a strong focus on the design process and team projects throughout all four years, whole-school presentations at the end of every semester, and entrepreneurial and business experiences. “Engineering is a fundamentally creative endeavor and the more perspectives that contribute to a solution, the better the solution,” noted Sherra Kerns in a statement, adding that the school graduates a higher percentage of women than any other co-ed U.S. engineering program. ASEE has several Olin connections: Sherra Kerns served as ASEE president in 2004-5; provost and dean of faculty Vincent Manno gave a keynote at ASEE’s inaugural International Forum in San Antonio two years ago; and associate professor Debbie Chachra writes the Reinventions column in Prism, which chronicled Olin’s progress with features in 2000, 2003, and 2007.


Timmerhaus Bequest Benefits ASEE

ASEE has received a $99,180 bequest from the estate of Klaus Timmerhaus, an esteemed chemical engineer, teacher, and 42-year faculty member at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who died Feb. 11, 2011. He was 86.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Timmerhaus was named by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2008 as one of the Top 100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era for his work in cryogenics science and practice. Cryogenics is the study of the behavior of materials at extremely low temperatures.

His energetic contributions to ASEE, which he served as a board member from 1985 to 1988, were recognized with the George Westinghouse Award (1968), the  ASEE Chemical Engineering Division Union Carbide Lectureship Award (1980), a Distinguished Service Certificate from the Design and Laboratory Oriented Studies (1991), the Fred Merryfield Design Award (1992), the ASEE Centennial Medallion (1993), election to the grade of Fellow (1994), and the ASEE Chemical Engineering Division Award for Lifetime Achievement in Chemical Engineering Pedagogical Scholarship (2008).

During his career at CU, where he was known as “Dr. T,” Timmerhaus received at least 48 teaching awards and served at different times as an associate engineering dean, director of the Engineering Research Center, acting chair of aerospace engineering, and chair of chemical engineering.

He was a coauthor or contributor to several books published in multiple editions, including Plant Design and Economics for Chemical Engineers (McGraw Hill), Advances in Cryogenic Engineering (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers), and Cryogenic Process Engineering (International Cryogenics Monograph).

Annual Report

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