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Engineering-related Program Changes Approved by State Higher Education Coordinating Board


JONESBORO – Action today by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board clears the way for Arkansas State University to offer the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management Systems (BSEMS) degree, as well as an undergraduate certificate of proficiency in controls and automation.

“The board’s action represents a huge step forward in the college’s effort to respond to the needs of students as well as employers,” emphasized Dr. Abhijit Bhattacharyya, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “The BSEMS, which will be offered both on-campus and online, will enable traditional as well as non-traditional students go on to positions of leadership in engineering companies.”

Bhattacharyya expressed his gratitude to Dr. Alexandr Sokolov, assistant professor of engineering management, for his extensive work in developing the program, along with Dr. Brandon Kemp, professor of electrical engineering, who is serving as director of the engineering management unit.

“Oftentimes engineers find themselves in management and leadership positions, when, in most cases, they have had little, or no, business or management training,” noted Jim Chidester, senior mechanical engineer and project manager for Batson Inc., an engineering firm in Little Rock, as he emphasized the value of the degree program which will develop both engineering and business skills.

The need for training in  controls and automation also is widely acknowledged by employers, such as Hytrol Conveyor Co., Inc.

"This type of advancement in learning is only available because of the partnerships between universities and the private sector. We are seeing time and time again that when this type of partnership happens, everyone wins," stated David Peacock, Hytrol president, adding “Arkansas State offering students an undergraduate certificate in controls and automation will be a huge benefit to employers in our area.”

“This is a rapidly growing field and is becoming more and more desired every day,” added David Williamson, president of Automation Outfitters Inc. “It is a field that, due to the constant evolution of technology and application processes, can provide the challenges and continued growth that new electrical engineering and computer science students often desire once they enter the workforce. This will open many doors and broaden the opportunities for job placement for many new grads as well. As a business leader in the automation industry, I am excited for what this means. This gives us a much more opportunity to find and fill open positions without sacrificing our needs in those roles.”

The undergraduate certificate – most appropriate for those majoring in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering – offers students a significant additional competitive edge when they enter the workforce, the dean added. 

“Controls and automation are ubiquitous these days – some examples are conveyor systems, cruise control in cars, use of a thermostat to regulate heating and cooling in buildings or controlling the flight path of an aircraft. As for employers, it offers them access to local talent trained in theoretical and practical aspects of controls systems that they did not have before.”

The certificate is the outcome of a collaboration between  Dr. Shubhalaxmi Kher, electrical engineering program director, and Dr. Shivan Haran, mechanical engineering program director as well as the program faculty. The dean is grateful for their joint leadership in developing the certificate program.

“The college is all about listening to its stakeholders – students and employers – and delivering on their needs,” Bhattacharyya continued.  “Aside from the two very important developments today, ADHE approved the name change of the technology program to engineering technology a little more than a year ago. That important change aligned the name of the program to its content and instantly made it more recognizable to students and employers alike.”

Engineering technology is a more applied discipline compared to engineering, and graduates are very involved in manufacturing operations while engineers are more involved in design and project execution.

Doug Imrie, president of Southern Cast Products, expressed his satisfaction with the name change of the program to engineering technology.

“We have always actively recruited students in the engineering technology program at A-State.  We find these students to be well-trained in several different technology aspects at our foundry,” he said. “Changing the name of this program from ‘technology’ to ‘engineering technology’ will not only make the program more attractive for prospective students, but it will also serve to better characterize the students in this respected field.”

The name change also positions the program to complement the College of Engineering and Computer Science in such areas as quality, safety and project management, added Kevin Hart, project engineer for Anchor Packaging, Inc.

“This change will shed new light on the program and the value these graduates bring to the services and manufacturing industries,” he added.

Dr. Rajesh Sharma, director of the engineering technology program, emphasized the strong partnerships A-State enjoys with local industry, which supports students with internships, and graduates with full-time job opportunities.

The program name change was a response to students, alumni and employers who proposed the idea, Sharma added. “This will better develop the identity of the program that is well understood by all stakeholders, including industrial and corporate entities, high schools, community colleges, and especially students and their parents.”

More details about programs in the College of Engineering and Computer Science are available online.