signs

Designs were shown at the Nov. 16 ceremonial groundbreaking of the Science Initiative building, a facility UW leaders have touted as a boon for its Tier 1 aspirations.

The University of Wyoming is currently “on track” to become a Tier 1 engineering institution, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Michael Pishko said Thursday.

At the state Legislature’s Mineral, Business & Economic Development Committee meeting this week, Pishko gave an update on his college’s progress in meeting a mandate set by Gov. Matt Mead in 2014.

The exact qualification of being a Tier 1 engineering school is an unsettled one. The label usually refers to institutions like MIT and Stanford that are ranked as Tier 1 by independent observers.

In May 2012, Mead and the Legislature articulated a vision to propel UW’s engineering college to the realms of new excellence. In 2014, the state approved biennial funding of $8 million for phase I of the engineering initiative, in addition to $18.4 million for facilities development.

That vision calls for the college to, by 2025, increase its undergraduate enrollment to 2,200 from 1,400, increase graduate enrollment to 560 and “establish research centers of excellence in at least six critical areas of engineering and applied science consistent with creating economic impact to the state.”

By 2020, the plan calls for the college to have 1,800 undergraduate students and have established at least four of the six planned “research centers of excellence.”

Achieving Tier 1 status, Pishko said, means “not trying to be everything to everybody.”

The college will need to “have our flag planted in key signature areas,” excelling in fields like artificial intelligence, water, cybersecurity and blockchain technology.

The biggest obstacle for reaching Tier 1 status, Pishko said, is being about to “hire the next generation” of faculty members to lead the college.

“I would like to move more aggressively than I’m permitted to at this point,” he said.

Except for civic engineering, all of the college’s programs need an influx of top quality professors, Pishko said.

Still, the college is seeking measurable gains, Pishko said. The college had a record number of graduates in 2018, and Pishko noted that well above 80 percent of graduates had jobs upon graduation.

“Our students are quite well thought of,” he said. “They’re competitive nationally and they’re recruited nationally.”

Two new degree programs are set to launch in fall 2019, and UW’s $105 million Engineering Education and Research Building is slated to be completed in February. Pishko said the college plans to hold classes in the new building in the summer.

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