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Women Succeed in UST Engineering, CUA is New Partner
2/17/2014

Kendall NiemannIn the male-dominated field of engineering, it can be difficult for women to succeed, but last year, all four graduates of the University of St. Thomas cooperative engineering program were women, and three of them were Hispanic.

Dr. Sheila Waggoner said she is proud of all of her students, though she believes the reason women succeed in the St. Thomas program is because of the University’s small class environment. As professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Cooperative Engineering, she keeps close tabs on students —male and female—and talks to them all the time. It’s individual attention they might not get at a larger engineering school. 

“Being in an engineering class of more than 200, with only 10 females could be intimidating,” Waggoner said.  “We offer more than you’d get if you go directly to an engineering school, because we have this liberal arts curriculum. We’re teaching students how to write and communicate, which employers are looking for. They’re getting that in combination with the technical background.”

In the UST Cooperative Engineering program, a 3+2 engineering program, students graduate with two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in applied mathematics from St. Thomas and a Bachelor of Science degree in the chosen engineering discipline at a cooperative institution.

View a video of a sample cooperative engineering class.

Catholic University of America Becomes 4th Partner School

UST has cooperative agreements with Texas A&M University, University of Houston, University of Notre Dame and newly-approved The Catholic University of America.

The Rev. Joseph Pilsner, dean of arts and sciences, said The Catholic University of America is among the leading Catholic universities in the United States. He said the Engineering School at CUA is relatively small and should continue UST’s personal approach for students. 

“The shared values of our two institutions should make transition to the undergraduate engineering program at CUA easier for our cooperative engineering students,” Father Pilsner said. 

Because of its location in Washington, D.C., Father Pilsner said the students at CUA have opportunities to attend seminars with distinguished academics and engineers. Additionally, there are many opportunities for internships in governmental institutions and in corporations with a presence in the D.C. area. 

“The Catholic University of America is an exciting and worthwhile place to study,” Father Pilsner said. “We are fortunate to have CUA as UST’s newest cooperating partner.”

Revamped Curriculum Better Prepares Students for Engineering

Dr. Robert Foust Waggoner said St. Thomas recently revamped the Cooperative Engineering Program curriculum to make the program more attractive to students and better prepare them for engineering classes at partner schools.  Five more students will graduate from the program this May, and more than five students will transfer to partner schools this fall.

“The program is successful and growing,” Waggoner said. “We currently have 15 students in cooperative institutions.”

The curriculum changes include making the thermodynamics elective a required course because it’s required by some partner schools. UST added new courses in electrical circuits, electrical circuits lab and computer-aided design, or CAD. Classes on differential equations and linear algebra were converted to the courses Mathematics for Engineering I and II, which cover similar material. The required hours were reduced to make it easier to complete the UST part of the program in three years.

The changes also include hiring Dr. Henry Foust as assistant professor in the department.

“One of the great things is that we have a faculty member with a Ph.D. in civil engineering now in our program,” Waggoner said. “He has worked in engineering, and he can talk to the students about the field.”

Waggoner said she worked closely with the partner schools, including CUA, in developing the program to prepare the students for engineering studies.

“We have a strong and unique program,” she said. “We’re sending students to engineering schools, and they’re doing extremely well.”

To learn more about cooperative engineering at St. Thomas, contact Dr. Waggoner at sheilaw@stthom.edu or 713-525-3818.

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