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Indiana Commission for Higher Education approves engineering degrees at IU Bloomington

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Indiana University will offer degrees in intelligent systems engineering beginning with the 2016-17 academic year, following today’s approval of the university’s proposal by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

The new engineering program, the first ever on the IU Bloomington campus, will be housed within the School of Informatics and Computing and will offer bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees, with a proposal for a master’s degree expected to be developed soon after the program’s launch.

“IU greatly welcomes today’s action by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and very much appreciates the commission’s support for a program in IT-related engineering at IU Bloomington,” said IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who first announced IU’s interest in establishing an engineering program in his October 2014 State of the University address.

“This program, steeped in the campus’s longstanding strengths in the sciences and technology, will allow us to better prepare our students for the high-demand jobs of the future and more fully support Indiana’s entrepreneurial culture and economic competitiveness.”

The bachelor’s program will offer degree tracks in computer engineering and cyber-physical systems, bioengineering, and molecular and nanoscale engineering, while the doctoral program will allow students to focus on these areas as well as environmental and neuro engineering. Central to this focused program will be the engineering and design of small, mobile, personal technologies that integrate big data, computational modeling and intelligent systems into their design.

The program, approved by IU trustees in April, is an integral part of the Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University, which calls for the university to support a culture of building and making.

It was created in response to a need for additional trained engineers in southwest central Indiana to support major employers such as Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, Cook Group and Cummins Inc. and to help attract new industry to the region. That need was expressed in an economic development study for southwest central Indiana in 2014 conducted by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. The study cited the lack of engineering at IU Bloomington as one of the limiting factors to future economic growth in the region and called upon on IU Bloomington to “expand and/or develop offerings in applied sciences, including engineering.”

More than 100 current faculty members on the IU Bloomington campus possess engineering qualifications. In addition to the School of Informatics and Computing, the degree programs will draw upon expertise found in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Maurer School of Law, the Kelley School of Business and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

It is expected to leverage IU’s existing strengths in technology and science, notably informatics, computer science and fields such as biology, physics, chemistry, environmental sciences, and psychological and brain sciences. The university also expects the new program to open the door for increased collaboration with Purdue and other universities in the state that already offer engineering, which will benefit students and industry in Indiana.

Support for establishment of the program came from a university review committee, led by School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel, as well as from an external blue ribbon committee of national engineering experts, chaired by president emeritus of the University of Michigan, and former dean of engineering, James Duderstadt.

In addition, a coalition of executives from leading companies in Indiana, chaired by Cook Group Chairman Steve Ferguson, has lent its support to the program by agreeing to serve on an advocacy and advisory board. Members include senior leaders at Cummins, Eli Lilly, Dow AgroSciences, First Internet Bank, Interactive Intelligence, Tinderbox, Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center and the General Motors Powertrain facility in Bedford.

“A recurring theme in our conversations with major employers in Indiana has been their need for engineers who understand modern informatics and computing topics, including intelligent systems, user interfaces and data science,” Schnabel said. “These new programs will allow us to educate this type of engineer, and we are excited to be able to add these disciplines to our academic portfolio.”

With the establishment of these degree programs, IU Bloomington joins its peers in the 62-member Association of American Universities, all of which offer engineering programs of some kind.

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