Report: Engineering staff needed

By Scott Nicol

The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has been recommended to transform both the B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and the minor in biomedical engineering, and review or phase out nine certificates — the most from any college at NIU.

The recommendations were made by the program prioritization task force in a Monday report.

The academic task force is concerned with the ability of the department’s faculty to manage a large number of students and suggests transforming the programs by hiring faculty or by limiting admissions, according to the task force report.

The nine certificates make up 41 percent of all engineering programs offered. The academic task force raised concerns of insufficient data in the narratives for six of the certificates, according to the report.

“[The electrical engineering program has] people who struggle to graduate on time because there are only certain courses offered certain semesters,” said Mackenzie Franklin, junior electrical engineering major. “If [students’] schedules don’t line up, if two of [the classes offered once a year] are overlapping, [students] can’t graduate on time in most cases… . If we had more professors, then we would have more frequent and smaller classes.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for electrical engineers to increase at 5.4 percent rate each year until 2022, according to an electrical engineering narrative.

The enrollment for the B.S. in electrical engineering saw a 6.2 percent increase from fall 2013 to fall 2014, according to the B.S. in electrical engineering narrative.

The task force suggests more faculty be hired to meet the expected average annual increase enrollment of 5.4 percent into the B.S. in electrical engineering program.

The M.S. electrical engineering program has witnessed its overall enrollment increase at nearly double the national rate with a 15.5 percent average annual increase in enrollment since fall 2011, compared nationally to an 8.5 percent increase, according to the M.S. in electrical engineering narrative.

Federal research funding has increased 208 percent from Fiscal Year 2013 to FY 2015, going from an estimated $20,000 in FY 2013 to an estimated $130,000 in FY 2015, according to the task force report.

The task force recommended diversity within the program be addressed as there is one tenured female professor for the entire electrical engineering program and 13 percent of enrollment is female in the B.S. and 28 percent in the M.S., according to the task force report.

“I don’t think it really matters about diversity,” Franklin said. “What is more important is how well teachers are able to do their job. I think [NIU] should hire whoever is best. Diversity is great and all, but at the end of the day I think every student wants the best teacher.”