Engineering at UGA

Stephen Fleming, a former Venture Capitalist, who now handles commercialization of intellectual property for Georgia Tech (and has done more to create jobs in Georgia than the entire General Assembly in my opinion), penned a good blog post on UGA’s expressed interest in creating an engineering program.

Campus rivalry aside, Fleming makes the case that the money could be best spent elsewhere. More funding for K-12 Math and Science, expanding the Georgia Technical College System, or expanding the instructional facilities at Georgia Tech, would cost a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to create an engineering program from scratch in Athens.

In addition, unless UGA planned to drastically lower its admission standards, it wouldn’t be admitting a whole lot more Georgia High School graduates than GaTech already does.

At a time when the Georgia budget is stretched so thin, is it really worth spending millions of dollars to boost the prestige of a University President?

Finally, he takes aim at the You-Must-Have-A-College-Degree-To-Succeed myth, and makes the case for more technical education:

If you’re 18 years old and have no idea what you want to do with your life… major in engineering! I don’t really care what branch of engineering. The interesting stuff happens at the edges, anyhow (merging electrical engineering with biomedical engineering leads to implantable heart monitors, etc.). But, engineering remains rigorous, engineering remains grounded in reality, and you can’t gobbledygook your way to an engineering degree. If you get the design wrong, or flub the calculations, the bridge will fall down, and not all the neo-Marxist deconstructionist twaddle in the world will change that.

Engineering will kick your butt, but you will learn something… and you’ll learn how to learn. (Something that cannot be said for the earnest young undergraduate who can regurgitate the entire works of Jacques Derrida, but whom I wouldn’t hire as night watchman in a cement factory.) And that will set you up for a lifetime of fulfilling and successful work, whether you choose to continue in engineering, or switch to medicine, or law, or farming, or building electric guitars.


    • polisavvy says:

      And, maybe we can engineer better behavior on the part of the team — figure out how to cut down on arrests. It’s more than embarrassing the number of arrests over the past several years.

  1. rightofcenter says:

    This is just more of Michael Adams’ BS. This makes absolutely no sense, particularly in these times of tight budgets. There’ are several reasons that Georgia has the best engineering school in the south, and one of the best in the country. One of the main ones is that all of our engineering efforts were concentrated at one school, unlike our other southern brethren.

    Full disclosure: I am a proud and loyal Georgia Tech graduate. But even Bulldog Sonny Perdue recognizes that this is a dumb idea.

  2. AubieTurtle says:

    Alabama has tons of engineering schools and it doesn’t seem to have helped the state much. Most of the students either move out of state after graduation or work in another field. Huntsville and the smattering of industrial plants don’t need the number of engineers that graduate from the large number of engineering schools in the state.

    If the State of Georgia isn’t creating enough engineers to meet the needs of the businesses in the state and isn’t able to attract enough from other states, I’m not sure UGA is the best plan anyway. An engineering school in the southern end of the state would seem to make more geographic sense. Yes, none of the colleges that way have the academic reputation of UGA but good programs are built through hard work and not through osmosis.

  3. ugagrad_2001 says:

    I completely disagree that expanding UGA’s engineering program would be a waste of money. I graduated from UGA with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering (BSBE) and work for a civil engineering consulting firm where UGA engineers outnumber GT grads about 8 to 1. UGA’s engineering program produces a different type of engineering grad than GT which is why the company that I work for consistently hires UGA grads over GT grads. UGA engineering grads tend to be more well rounded and communicate better than the average GT counterpart. They also tend to be less of the nerdy engineer sterotype and are generally better at interacting with non-engineer clients in a consulting firm work setting. GT grads tend to be more technically and theoretically focused with a skill set that usually applies better to a research or technical work setting. These are generalizations and are obviously not true of every graduate from either school, so if you are a GT grad don’t automatically take offense that I am talking about you in particular.

    Furthermore, UGA does not necessarily compete for engineering students with GT. I would have never went to GT. I grew up on a farm in South Georgia and had no desire to attend school and live in downtown Atlanta. Had GT been my only option in state for an engineering degree I would have either left the state or likely went somewhere else in state and pursued a degree other than engineering. I know there were plenty of others at UGA that shared my sentiment. Also, UGA’s engineering class sizes are much smaller than GT’s and you get kind of a small school feel within the engineering department that many students prefer.

    There is room in this state for more than one engineering program. Let UGA pursue expanding its engineering program. If budget is the only concern make sure the expansion is done in a manner that it pays for itself by tuition and fees, expanded research facilities, and/or alumni donations.

    • I have no problem with UGA expanding it’s current engineering program… as far as keeping to the subjects of engineering that it currently offers. If it wants to expand into other areas (such as the ones GT focuses on), I have no problem with it paying for those through alumni or corporate donations. But I don’t want tax dollars paying for it to expand into areas it does not currently offer. I’d rather see a school that already offers that program *and specializes in it* expand their program. Georgia Tech is known throughout the country for it’s engineering and technology programs. Georgia is known for it’s agricultural programs. Just as Georgia shouldn’t expand into these new engineering areas, Georgia Tech shouldn’t offer Cattle Breeding 101, Veterinary Science 202, etc. When schools specialize in certain fields, they’re able to focus their attention on those areas and provide top notch programs.

      Funny you should mention civil engineering… my wife left her job as a mechanical engineer to run our business full time and while she was in college I frequently heard people joking that civil engineers were mechanical engineering dropouts. (How did you put it? This is just a generalization and is obviously not true of every civil engineer, so if you are a civil engineer don’t automatically take offense that I am talking about you in particular.) 😉

      • ugagrad_2001 says:

        Pay attention, I work in the civil engineering field. My degree is in Biological Engineering. Never had any desire to pursue mechanical engineering as I am more inclined to biological sciences than physics.

    • Steve says:

      It sounds like you’re saying that UGA grads make better managers and client liaisons… while the more “nerdy” GT grads are better at the actual engineering work. The latter are also more comfortable in cities, where most of the client money and engineering projects actually are.

      I agree with all this. I just don’t see how this supports an argument for spending millions of dollars to have UGA start from scratch with the “nerdy” stuff.

      • ugagrad_2001 says:

        I feel plenty comfortable visiting big cities long enough to work on a project and take some of that big city money back to countryside where us dumb rednecks live.

    • Joshua Morris says:

      What you’re saying is that UGA offers ‘engineering lite’. That’s not a slam–it’s just a differentiation. What’s wrong with different schools having different areas of academic strength? Tech can be stronger technically, while UGA can offer some programs that are geared more to practical application of general principles, tied to the organic sciences. Then you have Southern Tech, which offers degrees in engineering technology, a more hands-on focus.

      I would agree, however, with some who feel that a stronger engineering program might be a good fit for one of the schools in the southern end of the state.

      • ugagrad_2001 says:

        Wow, you identified a verb misusage in a message board post. Very clever. GT would probably hire you to chair their English department, but they are probably worried that you would be overqualified.

        • rightofcenter says:

          Actually, the English Department at Tech was one of my favorites. Probably because all of the professors actually spoke English.

          • Lady Thinker says:

            So you are a techie? Half of my family supports Tech and the other half support UGA. I went to North Georgia College and got a bachelor’s and a master’s. Love those mountains.

  4. Charlie says:

    This isn’t much more than President Adams “No Parking Lot Left Behind” strategy. Given that Adams should be Chancellor soon, and Sonny the UGA President, I’m thinking we’ll get Lake Dooley and the UGA School of Bass Fisheries before we see a full engineering school near the Arch.

  5. Quaker says:

    Sure we need an engineering school at UGA. “C” and “D” students need somewhere to go, and they sure can’t get into Tech.

  6. ACCmoderate says:

    Adams wouldn’t be trolling for this engineering school had the state just let UGA start up its own med school instead of the MCG partnership.

  7. Holly says:

    Oddly, no one seems to have mentioned that Georgia Southern already has a partnership with Georgia Tech to open up engineering opportunities to students who might not have the grades or SAT score to get into Tech. If the problem is that Georgia Tech is too competitive (which seems to be at least part of Adams’s reasoning), then I fail to see how creating new programs at UGA is going to address this issue at all. UGA has tough admissions standards, too. Therefore, wouldn’t the logical solution be to create (or expand) programs at Tier II universities… like Georgia Southern?

    I am a Bulldog, as I know many of you are as well. However, at this time, I think UGA is trying to justify beginning programs that are unnecessary and could be executed more effectively elsewhere.

    • rightofcenter says:

      Holly, you are absolutely correct. There already are ways for those who want to major in engineering to do it outside of Atlanta at Georgia Southern and in Savannah. I think Adams should concentrate on strengthening what they already do.

    • rightofcenter says:

      Actually, he is asking them to delay it and study the entire issue before acting in a rash manner. What an incredible idea – amazing they couldn’t think of that on their own.

      I don’t think he can call a halt to it, but hopefully his influence will be enough to cause them to put it off and conduct a whole lot more study into this.

      • Steve says:

        It’s the same thing… we just have our own special vocabulary here in Georgia that you have to learn in order to participate in politics. Examples:

        “fee” — (noun) A tax.
        “study” — (verb) To kill something, at least until the next person takes office.

        Hmm… this would make good open thread fodder, I’m sure there are more.

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