A proposed bachelor’s degree program — to be offered jointly by Casper College and UW-Casper — would add to a spectrum of engineering degrees offered through the state’s institutions of higher education.
The computer engineering technology degree would graduate “technologists,” who differ slightly in ability and focus from the engineers produced by other degree tracks, University of Wyoming Professor Steve Barrett said.
“They cover similar topics of math and basic science and engineering topics, but a technology degree has less math requirements and concentrates more on applied hands-on skills,” Barrett said. “An engineering degree is more mathematics, more theoretical, more design. But again, lots of overlap.”
He added most large engineering projects require both technologists and engineers.
“It’s not a strong line of demarcation between the two,” Barrett said. “In fact, several sources describe it as a spectrum of engineering jobs where the technologist is more in jobs related to field service, technical fields and product testing, and whereas an engineer would be more in the research side of things, product design and development.”
The degree would be offered through a “two-plus-two” program, during which students attend their first two years at Casper College and finish the degree with two years through UW-Casper, which uses the same facilities.
The program would be offered concurrently with a specialized education major, allowing students to graduate with the proposed degree and the necessary credentials to teach in Wyoming.
“They’re two separate degrees that are closely related to one another,” Barrett said. “There’s some overlap between the two, but you don’t have to pursue both. Let’s say that my goal is to become a computer hardware specialist — I could do the computer engineering technology degree and then in my elective space, I would do additional coursework in engineering as opposed to education.”
Barrett added the program might eventually offer other tracks, with areas of focus outside of education.
“We see the degree being very, very flexible in that it can be used by industry, it could be used by education,” he said. “(Graduates) could be sales engineers representing companies.”
UW-Casper lost a degree program in May when the UW Board of Trustees eliminated five programs, including the secondary education for industrial technical education degree offered solely through the university’s Casper campus.
The proposed program could serve as an updated alternative to the eliminated program, Trustee Michelle Sullivan told the rest of the board during its meeting Jan. 18.
“This is a program that would be completely based in Casper,” she said. “It would be — not a replacement for — but a compliment to the engineering degree, with a technology focus. It will use a lot of the assets and kind of interests and opportunities we heard and were concerned about when we eliminated the program that was at UW-Casper last year.”
The proposed degree program will be one of the first to move through a new process being developed by the Board of Trustees to evaluate potential certificate, minor and major programs.
The board committee responsible for reviewing new programs and developing a process for doing so — the academic and student affairs committee — is chaired by Sullivan.
“Currently, there is not really a process for the development of new programs and the rules and (regulations) committee is in the process of approving a (regulation) with a process,” Sullivan said. “What we have done … is work within the spirit of that new (regulation), even though it’s not on the books yet.”
The computer engineering technology degree is midway through this process now. Barrett and others at UW working to get the degree off the ground have submitted a notice of intent — an initial proposal for a new program.
Having received approval from Sullivan’s committee, Barrett and his colleagues are now reaching out for comment and feedback and will use this research to build a much more detailed proposal.
The proposal requires approval by the full Board of Trustees before the degree can be offered, but Barrett said he hopes the degree is ready to accept to freshmen for the fall 2018 semester.
He added the plan is to accept transfer students into the program starting fall 2020 — giving the academic professionals and professors of practice supporting the degree a two-year window to develop upper-level courses.
“We’re really excited about the prospects of the degree and we’ll go through the approval process one step at a time,” Barrett said. “We welcome any and all comments and feedback.”
The proposal is being developed with assistance and input from Casper College, UW-Casper, the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Education.