CULLOWHEE – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has authorized Western Carolina University to pursue new joint degree programs in electrical engineering and computer engineering in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Western and UNC-C could begin offering new programs to engineering students as early as the fall semester, which starts in August. The UNC Board of Governors will review curriculum details of the new programs for final approval at its meeting in May.

Western, which is currently working with UNC-C in the areas of photonics and opto-electronics, is moving quickly on details of the initiative, said WCU Chancellor John Bardo. Western and UNC-Charlotte also are partners, along with Clemson University, in the Carolinas MicroOptics Triangle, a research alliance designed to develop fiber optic communication capacity.

“UNC-Charlotte has shown itself to be an excellent partner, and these joint degree programs in electrical and computer engineering will increase the strength of that relationship,” Bardo said.

UNC-Charlotte’s College of Engineering and Western’s existing programs in engineering technology are certified by the Accreditation Body for Engineering Technology. The new courses would be reviewed by ABET for the same prestigious recognition.

Western and UNC-C are working out details of the new degree programs, which would allow faculty to offer classes through a combination of distance education and traditional classroom and laboratories in both Cullowhee and Charlotte. Degrees awarded to students would carry the names of both institutions.

“This initiative is a very important step in our efforts to promote the economic vitality of the region,” Bardo said. “UNC President Molly Broad and the Board of Governors understand that this region and the eastern part of North Carolina are both critical to the future economic vitality of the whole state. While engineering is not a ‘silver bullet’ with regard to the economic future of Western North Carolina, it is certainly a major component in an integrated, strategic approach to regional economic prosperity.”

Bipartisan support from Western North Carolina’s legislative delegation and from the business community helped to underscore the need for the expansion of engineering programs, Bardo said. “The leaders of the region see the local availability of engineering degrees as critical to the future of the region, and we’re grateful for their strong, continuing support for this proposal.”

Duane Dunlap, head of the department of engineering technology at Western, called the creation of new engineering programs a development with ramifications extending beyond WNC.

“In today’s technology-driven economy, engineering is vitally important to American society. It is a key to continuous improvement in the quality of life locally, regionally and statewide, to the nation’s economic development, and to sustaining the nation’s security,” Dunlap said. “Maintaining U.S. innovative capacity is heavily dependent upon the recruitment and further educational development of our creative talent in engineering.”

For more information about the programs in electrical engineering and computer engineering, contact Dunlap at (828) 227-2159, or via e-mail at ddunlap@wcu.edu.

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Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2003
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