USC Aiken hopes to add engineering degree
A USC Aiken freshman engineering major, David Mast initially didn't plan to attend the school.
“Now that I've been here, I don't want to leave,” he said.
He may not have to.
At a press conference on campus on Thursday, USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan formally announced a proposal that would introduce a four-year degree in industrial process engineering.
For about 25 years, the university has offered freshman- and sophomore-level engineering courses before the students leave to complete their degrees elsewhere.
USCA's plan still must be approved through the University of South Carolina's Board of Trustees and the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
Once approved, the program would commence in the fall of 2015.
This decision could shape the region for the next 50 years, Jordan said.
During a visioning process she introduced in 2012, Jordan said “Many of you heard the No. 1 thing that emerged is the desire to have an entire engineering program here at USCA. ... A strong message was sent by the community that this would be beneficial to many companies and industries in our area.”
Jordan was joined at the press conference by James Taylor, the URS general manager in Aiken, and Ken Rueter, the president of Savannah River Remediation.
A total of $400,000 will be pledged to USCA during SRR's contract that expires in 2019.
The URS/SRR executives joined Jordan for a memorandum of understanding.
“We've been long supporters of advancing education,” he said. “This is a worthwhile investment to USCA. It's great for new students in the area and great for us.”
Over the next 15 years, about 20 to 25 percent of SRR's employees in the technical areas will be eligible to retire, Rueter said.
“That's staggering,” he said. “We need a massive infusion of technical talent into the location, whether it's at SRR or any other facet of the (Savannah River Site). We are appreciative of this opportunity.”
USCA sought collaborations during the planning process, Jordan said. Representatives of area companies and industries participated in the discussion, and then other community residents joined in, as well.
Currently, USCA has about 100 students in the engineering program.
In a press release, Jordan said, “Our desire is to create an innovative engineering program, drawing upon mechanical, chemical, systems, process and materials engineering that is uniquely designed to meet the needs of our region.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.