Stony Brook University established a new Department of Civil Engineering this summer, and the first civil engineering majors will graduate in the spring.
The 13 future civil engineering graduates have seen the department grow from being a program within the Department of Engineering to now being an independent department with seven faculty members and a graduate program.
“This was really the time when it made sense to establish ourselves as an independent department,” Harold Walker, professor and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, said. “We now had a critical mass of faculty, and a full array of educational programs from bachelor’s through Ph.D.”
Walker was brought to Stony Brook from Ohio State University in 2012 to start the civil engineering program.
The plan for the civil engineering program is outlined on the department’s website, from 2012 when the program started all the way to the undergraduate class of 2018 graduates. On that same timeline, key points of the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge are summarized.
“We are using the bridge as an analogy for ourselves,” Walker said. “The same way the bridge is a major construction project and is going to be built to serve the citizens of New York for the next 100 years, we are using the same mindset in putting together this Department of Civil Engineering to serve people for the next 100 years.”
One project the department is working on is assembling its first class of master’s degree and Ph.D. students.
“We don’t have a specific number of students in mind,” Walker said. “It all depends on the quality of the applicants.”
The department is also working on the development of new laboratories and teaching spaces to support both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Currently, the teaching facilities of the Department of Civil Engineering are located in the Heavy Engineering building, and these new facilities will be built in the old Computer Science building, Walker said.
The next major step for the department is the completion of the accreditation process through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In engineering programs, accreditation cannot begin until the program has graduates, so right now the department is collecting the data needed to prepare their ABET “self-study,” and plans to apply for accreditation once the first class of undergraduates earn their degrees this spring.
Though the department does not expect to complete the accreditation process until the fall of 2017, all graduates of the program before then are grandfathered into the ABET accreditation.
Among those graduates is Morgan DiCarlo, who is the president and co-founder of the Stony Brook chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. DiCarlo has seen the program grow over the past three years and can appreciate the benefits that come with the establishment of the Department of Civil Engineering.
“One of the exciting projects we are doing this year is concrete canoe,” DiCarlo said. “You design, build and race a boat made out of concrete that is meant to float. Last year we competed, and we had some ups and downs. We had some level of success, but this year because we are a part of the department, we are so much more grounded, and we have raised a lot of money, so we will do a lot better as a concrete canoe team and hopefully win.”
One of the things DiCarlo enjoyed in the civil engineering program was the small size of the program.
“There were so many opportunities for leadership,” DiCarlo said. “Because classes were so small, I had strong relationships with the faculty.”
With the establishment of the Department of Civil Engineering, the class sizes are expected to grow. However, DiCarlo is not worried that the growing class sizes will negatively affect the students.
“All the professors are really student-oriented and really care about the students,” DiCarlo said. “So I think the professors chosen for this program will always have that mentality.”