Manufacturing lab.

The College of Physical Sciences and Engineering has created a new department this semester to serve the college's growing number of students. The Department of Mechanical Engineering has been divided into two new departments: the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, and the Department of Engineering Technology.

More than 9,000 students are enrolled in degree programs in the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, with more than 2,000 of those students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering alone. Adding the additional department brings the total number of departments in the college to nine. 

Greg Roach, dean of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, says plans to reorganize the department began in the Spring 2017 Semester, in an effort to provide students with better job, education, and internship opportunities. Since the two departments specialize in very different areas, Roach believes dividing the department will enable faculty members to better focus on the needs of their students, giving students more freedom to specialize where their interests lie.

"It will allow students within each program to get the attention and focus that they need. It will really make those programs world class on both sides," Roach said.

Kyle Kinghorn, who will serve as the first chair of the newly created Department of Engineering Technology, says the changes will improve the quality of the engineering technology programs.

"Many of the students that we have at  BYU-Idaho are geared more towards technology degrees rather than engineering degrees. Technology programs are a bit more hands-on while the engineering degrees are a bit more theoretical. I think that the creation of this new department will help us grow and develop the engineering technology degrees that we have on campus and allow more students the opportunity to take these types of courses," Kinghorn said.

As the new department grows, so will the educational opportunities for its students. 

"We are working on the creation of a degree that would most likely be very attractive to students. We already have an incredible automotive and welding program, and I'm excited to see us grow and develop these programs even more," Kinghorn said.

Roach says the department changes also aim to increase freshmen retention. Introductory courses are already offered in some of the college's programs, and are being developed for the programs without the courses, to help engage students early on in their studies.

"Our college is pretty forward in thinking about things that we can do to increase freshman retention," Roach said. "Traditionally in STEM programs, we lose a lot of kids, and it's an issue that we've been aware of, and that we're trying to address all the time." 

Splitting the department was fairly straightforward since courses were pulled from the already existing department, and both departments have overlapping courses.

"There is still a really strong collaboration between the two departments, even though the degrees are separate," Roach said.