Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, IOWA—Cornell College’s new engineering sciences program will blend a solid grounding in math and science with a liberal arts education that prepares students to solve problems that don’t yet exist.

The engineering sciences major will educate students for jobs or graduate study in electrical or mechanical engineering, as well as related fields such as robotics or computer engineering.

Brian Johns, assistant professor of engineering, said that the liberal arts grounding Cornell College offers means that students will be well-prepared for the challenges they’ll face.

“Technology is evolving at light speed and systems are becoming more complex than ever before,” he said. “Consequently, today’s engineers need to be equipped to solve future problems that do not yet exist. The liberal arts vision addresses this by preparing students to creatively solve previously unencountered problems using a broad interdisciplinary skill set. Engineering education provides the technical skills to solve the issues of today, but the liberal arts foundation will enable students to conquer the great challenges of tomorrow.”

Zach Zasada, a 2010 Cornell College graduate and the lead hardware engineer at Corsica Innovations Inc. in Boulder, Colorado, said his Cornell education gave him a solid basis to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering and the confidence to know he can solve problems he’s never seen before.

“If I don't know something, I feel I have the tools that I can learn it and excel at it with time and practice,” he said. “I believe it was my liberal arts education that gave me those tools and confidence. To be a good engineer you need more than just engineering problem solving skills.”

Lyle Lichty, Cornell College professor of physics and engineering, said engineers are starting to realize that a liberal arts education is great preparation for a career in the field.

“The engineering education community has been introducing reforms that provide students with the skills and knowledge that practicing engineers actually use,” he said. “Many of these skills sound very familiar to those of us at a liberal arts college—effective communication, identifying problems, designing solutions and experiments, working in a group, engagement in lifelong learning, and, of course, knowledge of math, science, and engineering. We want our engineering students to be engaged in the process of designing solutions to meet societal needs early in their education.”

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