MANATEE -- USF Sarasota-Manatee and USF Tampa will unveil a new "Bridge to Engineering" program, allowing students to complete two years at the Sarasota-Manatee campus and then finish their final two years at Tampa's engineering school.
"It's really exciting," said Terry Osborn, the USF Sarasota-Manatee vice chancellor for student and academic affairs. "This is a really powerful way for local students and the local community to benefit."
In the fall, students will be able to enroll in pre-engineering classes at the Sarasota-Manatee campus for two years and then automatically move to the mechanical engineering program in Tampa for their last two years, as long as the students maintain good grades. At the Sarasota-Manatee campus, students will take math, physics, chemistry and engineering classes before going onto the upper level classes at the Tampa campus.
The program will be housed in the newly created College of Science & Mathematics at USF Sarasota-Manatee, and aligns with a science, technology, engineering and math initiative at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
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"Tampa has a world-renowned engineering college. Rather than trying to rebuild what it already so successful, it made more sense to leverage that USF system membership," Osborn said.
Most of USF Sarasota-Manatee's students are local, and this gives them an additional opportunity for study close to home. The new program will also help satisfy the business community, which has identified engineering as an area of need. The idea first cropped up when the univer
sity was working on its strategic plan, regional chancellor Sandra Stone said.
"From talking and meeting with leaders, there was a clear message there's a need for more engineering graduates to come to the community and work," she said. "We're trying to do our part and be responsive to what the community is saying they need."
For now, the program is only open for mechanical engineering degrees, which USF Tampa College of Engineering Dean Robert Bishop said is one of the most fundamental engineering degrees and opens up a number of career opportunities.
The engineering school in Tampa is split into six departments: mechanical, civil and environmental, chemical and biomedical, electrical, industrial and management systems, and computer science and engineering. Mechanical is the largest. The College of Engineering has about 5,200 students, 4,100 of them being undergraduate students and the rest being graduate students.
The new partnership discussions have been underway for about a year, Bishop said.
"To me, this is like an obvious thing to do," he said. "Why not do this?"
In addition to appealing to new students, Osborn said he expects some current USF Sarasota-Manatee students will be interested in the program, and they'll be able to help seamlessly move those students in as well. Both Osborn and Bishop expect the program to expand quickly, bringing in other engineering majors.
"This will all be driven by students. The industry will tell us what their needs are," Bishop said. "Whatever direction it grows first will be based on what the needs are."
The main goal, whether they are at the Sarasota-Manatee or the Tampa campus, is to produce engineers ready to join the workforce, Bishop said.
"It doesn't matter to me where they are, whatever makes the best engineer at the end is what we're trying to achieve," he said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.