The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) has approved a new College of Engineering at Illinois State University, designed with an equity lens to help close long-standing gaps in enrollment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented and underserved students in the engineering field.
“Illinois State understands that our whole state is stronger when more of our residents have access to opportunities in STEM, and I applaud the University’s commitment to build an engineering program that opens doors for traditionally underrepresented students,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “I’m committed to opening doors for all of our residents to thrive in the 21st century economy, and our higher education ecosystem is one of the greatest tools we have to do better by all of Illinois.”
“The Board applauds President Kinzy and her team at Illinois State University for their leadership in centering equity as they developed the College of Engineering. This is exactly the type of transformation we hoped to see when we adopted our higher education strategic plan. This new College of Engineering will create opportunities for students who for too long have been underrepresented in engineering,” said IBHE Board Chair John Atkinson.
Once established, the College of Engineering will include the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering with three degree programs in electrical, mechanical, and general engineering. University officials are targeting the fall of 2025 for enrollment of the first class of an estimated 130 students, rising to reach 520 students by the fourth year.
“Illinois State’s College of Engineering will offer an innovative, experiential, and industry-informed curriculum,” said President Terri Goss Kinzy. “Importantly, the vision for the College centers on meeting the national need to grow and diversify the STEM pipeline, creating more educational opportunities for historically underrepresented and underserved students to successfully enter engineering professions. The departments and degree programs will also foster interactive collaboration with other colleges and units across the University and community colleges.”
Illinois State University has established plans to exceed state and national trends for the enrollment, retention, and degree completion of historically underrepresented and underserved students. Plans include recruiting a diverse cohort of engineering students — including students transferring from community colleges — offering ongoing and robust financial aid as well as holistic student supports, including a residential living and learning community. Recruiting and retaining faculty, staff, and administrators from historically underserved and underrepresented groups will also be a priority.
Illinois State sought the feedback of an array of industry partners before proposing the College of Engineering. Industry partners will continue to inform the engineering curriculum and research agenda through formal partnerships and advisory structures. They will also provide opportunities for students to engage in internships which will be required in all engineering degree programs.
“The College of Engineering is an excellent example of what Illinois State can accomplish when we think boldly and act with a common purpose and clear objectives,” said Provost Aondover Tarhule. “I commend our shared governance partners and other campus constituents, the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, industry and community partners, and the IBHE for working collaboratively to make this happen.”
Funding, staffing, space, and equipment for the College of Engineering will come from the University’s institutional operating funds and central reserve funds for initial startup. Board of Trustees approval will soon be sought for the initial implementation, including financing, of the college and academic departments and to cover building renovations, program laboratory equipment, and the renovation or addition of teaching labs in other existing University programs and administrative office space.