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School may add master's program

Sept. 17, 2003

By Cindy Kittner, reporter

Baylor engineering students soon may reap the benefits of a master's program and receive a top-notch education as well.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor's undergraduate engineering program 19 out of 150, which is the highest ranking in the state. Now, if all goes as planned, the engineering department may open a new venue for students wishing to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree.

Dr. Jim Farison, professor and engineering department chairman, and Dr. Walter Bradley, distinguished professor and associate dean for research, created the proposal for the master's degree program.

'It's not a recent thought; it's only recently possible,' Farison said. 'Faculty is eager to work with students on projects because engineering is very labor-intensive.'

Dr. Ben Kelley, dean of engineering and computer science, said the program will 'target three areas in two different ways.'

Kelley said the three areas of study are instruction and research in electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering. The two different ways to earn the degree include a practical track, which is practice oriented using appropriate technology, and the thesis track, which focuses on researching cutting-edge technology.

According to Kelley, the engineering master's degree will allow course work in business administration as well as the opportunity for students to choose a project to develop and implement appropriate technology in a developing country or depressed region of the United States.

'Appropriate technology is trying to match what's possible technically with a culture in a certain society,' Farison said.

Future students will have an interesting twist, Kelley said. 'Undergraduates can accelerate the program by taking one or two courses even as they're receiving their bachelor's degree,' Kelley said.

Current undergraduates benefit from additional faculty, which provide schedule flexibility, a variety of professors and more electives, Farison said.

The proposal identified the areas to be studied, required courses and faculty who are interested in the program, Kelley said. He said the faculty needed are already here, so the department would not have to go through a recruitment process.

Farison said that the engineering department has approved the proposal, and it is about to go to the graduate school and then on to the administration. Still, the program status has not been officially determined, Farison said.

'We're always asking, but you never know,' Kelley said. 'We hope to receive the final word this academic year, but it will have to be approved by the Baylor Board of Regents. We've put the package together and hope it's moving to a favorable conclusion.'