Environmental engineering has been a concentration of SPSU’s civil engineering school since the university began, said Zvi Szafran, vice president for academic affairs.
The subject was placed into a standalone program to meet a rising interest in the environmental science field.
Jeff Ray, dean of engineering technology and management, attributes the increased attention to a new generation of students “looking for social concerns as a way to give back.”
This type of “social engineering” attracts more women and minorities who want to use the degree to improve communities, Ray said.
The two 123-credit-hour programs will have separate curriculums, but will share introductory courses and a range of advanced electives.
Ray said intertwining the two departments makes the new degrees unique.
All engineering degrees have advanced math and science courses, but SPSU will now go a step further to teach about environmental impact, Ray said.
This will include environmental regulations, as well as construction methods for water and soil conservation, for example.
Not many environmental science programs require students to take engineering classes, Ray said.
Choosing to synchronize environmental science studies with civil engineering techniques came from within the university and not from an outside model, Szafran said.
“It was a desire to utilize our strengths,” Szafran said.
Szafran said SPSU’s goal is to expose students to the same partnership between the disciplines that exists in the job market.
“SPSU is well known for producing graduates who are ready to hit the ground running,” Szafran said.
Carlos Ortiz, a professor of civil engineering at SPSU, helped develop the program to address challenges he saw as a contractor, specifically in water waste and treatment.
He said there is a need for professionals with four-year degrees in science to manage facilities, as well as state and federal agencies.
Szafran said obtaining a degree in one of SPSU’s two new programs can lead to a job that protects the environment and helps a business to succeed.
Companies rely on these fields to determine environmental impact, Szafran said.
He added there is a large incentive to prove a business is green, which often results in tax benefits based on certifications.
“You get a chance to get a good job and do a good thing. What can be better than that?” Szafran said.