Engineers know the importance of starting a project off right — anticipating opportunities and challenges ahead helps us avoid dead ends and steer our path along a better route. Our project, the College of Engineering, got its start in 1893, when Bucknell’s first course in “surveying, city surveying and civil engineering” was offered by the Department of Mathematics. While the college itself wasn’t established until a half-century later, in 1962, the path our forebears set us on 125 years ago has kept us in the vanguard of engineering education throughout our history. The list of “firsts” for Bucknell engineers is a long one, but I’d like to highlight just a few:
- Our first woman graduate, Katherine Owens Hayden, earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering in 1923; today we are an institution of choice for women engineers, ranking No. 13 in the nation for the percentage of women in our undergraduate engineering programs
- The first computer on campus, a Burroughs E103, was installed in 1957, making Bucknell one of the first universities in the country to introduce computing to undergraduates; today we offer highly ranked degrees in both computer science and electrical & computer engineering, and our student and faculty programmers lend expertise to interdisciplinary projects from health care to community revitalization
- Our foundational Engineering 100 course pioneered the idea of introducing design to first-year engineering students in 1988; now variations of this course can be found in engineering colleges across the country
- Our biomedical engineering program was one of the first of its kind when established in 2000; the major is now offered at more than 75 U.S. colleges and universities
While I wasn’t here to witness these firsts, I see their continuing impact today. In my first two years as dean of the College of Engineering, I have been tremendously impressed by the commitment of our faculty and staff, as well as the key role that generous engineering alumni such as Trustee Emeritus Larry Breakiron ’52 and the late Richard Garman ’56, H’07 have played in advancing engineering education at Bucknell. I have enjoyed becoming part of a learning community that embraces excellence in teaching while applying and advancing engineering knowledge through cutting-edge research. Each day as I walk our halls, I see engineering in action. I see learning by doing. And I witness excitement for the future of our graduates, for engineering education and for service to the common good.
As we continue walking in our long tradition as trendsetters among colleges of engineering, we’re making even more ambitious plans. In fact, we are now crafting a new strategic plan that challenges Bucknell to become the path of choice for engineering students. One of the goals that is emerging in our plan is to expand experiential and hands-on learning, including research experiences that allow our students to create new inventions and make groundbreaking discoveries alongside our teacher-scholar faculty. To further that end, we are building our third engineering building, Academic East, an interdisciplinary nexus shared with the education department, that will more than double laboratory space available for research. We’ll also be doubling down on our efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for the Bucknell engineering community, broadening the pathway cut by Katherine Owens Hayden nearly a century ago.
We hope that this retrospective will stir fond memories of your own start at Bucknell and inspire enthusiasm about the exciting new places we’re heading. And we invite you to share in both by attending the 125th anniversary celebrations we have planned for the upcoming year. We’d love to see you again.