The Oregon University System has given approval for a new environmental engineering bachelor’s degree program at Portland State to begin fall term, making PSU the second college in the Pacific Northwest to offer the degree.
Environmental engineering program to start fall term
The Oregon University System has given approval for a new environmental engineering bachelor’s degree program at Portland State to begin fall term, making PSU the second college in the Pacific Northwest to offer the degree. The four-year bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering focuses on the study of natural systems, such as the Willamette River or the greenhouse effect, and the effects that human populations have on such systems. The entire curriculum for the degree includes 186 credit hours worth of classes, and 17 professors from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department have thus far enlisted to instruct the required courses. Scott Wells, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at PSU, said he feels that there is a niche for Portland-based environmental engineers and students who will study at PSU. Oregon State University, currently the only other institution offering a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering in the Pacific Northwest, is more focused on chemical engineering and water treatment, Wells said. He said that Portland is home to more living natural environments that can be observed. “More than any other profession, environmental engineers are regarded as improving the quality of life by improving the environment in which we live,” Wells said. “I’m looking forward to these engineers coming out of PSU.” Wells also said that environmental engineering at the university deserves its own undergraduate degree because civil engineers are very different from environmental engineers. “Basically, environmental engineering is for the people who know they don’t want to design bridges or work with a lot of steel and concrete,” Wells said. “It’s been a national trend to include environmental engineering in a university’s civil program, and I’m excited that PSU is ready to offer its students more options.” Portland State’s Maseeh College, which incorporates the engineering department, houses a rainwater treatment facility that recycles rainwater for use throughout the building. Wells said he feels this is a great example of sustainability that environmental engineering students can be proud of. Robert Annear, research associate in the engineering department, said he enjoys working at PSU because of the unique environment that engineers can study. Annear will be teaching a temperature model course for the degree program, which deals with the water and temperature quality of natural systems such as reservoirs. He said that he feels PSU’s environmental engineering students are in a privileged position to apply their studies. Annear currently works with the city of Seattle, managing the city’s reservoirs for water quality and temperature. “There’s a real need for environmental engineers in the Pacific Northwest, and this new program at the undergrad level is very complementary to the master’s and doctoral programs that we already offer at PSU,” Annear said. He also said that there is a potential for future students to work hands-on with Portland’s environmental departments, such as the Water Bureau or the Bureau of Environmental Services. Though there isn’t anything currently in place between PSU and the city of Portland, Annear said, the new degree should open up some possibilities. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, a national nonprofit group that evaluates graduates to determine the validity of a degree, will accredit the degree after an evaluation in 2012. Accreditation of new degrees is typically required before a degree is considered credible. Wells said that the accreditation board does not generally evaluate a degree until at least one student graduates from the degree program, and that he expects at least one graduate to be ready for evaluation by 2012-the next year that an evaluation from the accreditation board is scheduled for PSU. “I’m pleased that we have received approval for the degree,” said Trevor Smith, a geo-environmental professor who will be teaching courses in the environmental engineering curriculum. “Engineering is really designed to build something, and we’re the guys that build the lighthouses and dams. We fix roads … we help to boost the quality of life.”