[Currents header

October 22, 1996

UC Santa Cruz to embark upon major expansion of its engineering programs

A commitment of $2 million from the University of California Office of the President will help UC Santa Cruz launch a long-planned and ambitious expansion of its engineering programs, priming the campus to increase its contributions to the economy of the region and the state's high-technology industry.

UC President Richard C. Atkinson confirmed the funding in a letter last week to Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood of UCSC. The campus will use the funds to hire sixteen faculty members during the next three to four years, starting in the fall of 1997. These hires will lead to new departments in two key disciplines: electrical engineering and applied and engineering mathematics. UCSC will recruit the first freshmen into the electrical engineering program for matriculation next September.

The new researchers and course offerings will significantly enhance UCSC's existing degree programs in computer engineering and computer science. They also represent crucial steps toward the establishment of a School of Engineering--the first professional school in UCSC's history. Among the additional bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. programs being considered for this school are biotechnology engineering, environmental engineering, manufacturing engineering, applied mechanics, engineering management, and mechanical engineering.

"I want to extend my best wishes to you and your colleagues on the engineering initiatives," President Atkinson wrote in his letter. "I believe that Santa Cruz is positioning itself to serve California well in this vital area of teaching, research, and service."

Chancellor Greenwood has announced that UCSC will now strive to augment the funds from the Office of the President with contributions from industry and the private sector. "We will begin building toward what we know will be a distinctive 21st-century School of Engineering," Greenwood says. "Following in the Santa Cruz tradition of the past, it will be innovative and synergistic, with vital research and educational interactions across many disciplines. It also will provide a huge boost to our abilities to educate students to meet the changing demands of society."

Greenwood also announced that Patrick Mantey, Jack Baskin Professor of Computer Engineering at UCSC, will serve as associate dean for engineering within UCSC's Natural Sciences Division. Mantey, who came to Santa Cruz from IBM in 1984 as the first chairman of the Computer Engineering Department, will oversee all aspects of the engineering expansion.

"With a professional School of Engineering, we will fulfill our dream that the Santa Cruz campus can become a much more important player in the economy of Silicon Valley, the region, and the state," Mantey says. "We are the University of California campus closest to Silicon Valley, and we have a special opportunity to serve the Silicon Valley population. We have shown with our computer science and computer engineering programs that we can respond to the needs of the region, but now we will be able to do so in a much more mature and diverse way."

Ten of the initial faculty hires will be within electrical engineering and six within applied and engineering mathematics. They will affiliate with existing campus units until enough hires have occurred to create new departments. With future new hires and existing faculty, UCSC's School of Engineering will be comparable in terms of numbers of students and faculty to other excellent and focused engineering programs across the nation, Mantey says.

The school's researchers and students will engage in multidisciplinary work that capitalizes on UCSC's existing strengths in areas such as environmental studies, economics, physics, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, ocean sciences, and earth sciences. Indeed, a formal proposal from a faculty committee to establish a School of Engineering, issued in 1991, identified such collaborations as likely hallmarks of a Santa Cruz professional school.

"The enlightened uses of [new] technologies are most likely to be achieved if engineers are provided a broad and diversified education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences," the report stated. "UCSC's traditional emphasis upon quality liberal education will be even more valuable as we enter a new and highly technological century."

Faculty across campus are enthusiastic to see their careful plans for a School of Engineering finally bearing fruit. Professor of chemistry and biochemistry Eugene Switkes, who chaired the thirteen-member committee that prepared the 1991 proposal, says the students themselves will be among the most important beneficiaries.

"We believe that students who come here for engineering programs will bring an intellectual richness to the entire campus community," Switkes says. "One can imagine a pre-engineering student debating with a philosophy student in a literature class." Engineering students will serve to even further diversify the social and economic backgrounds of the student body, he adds.

Improvements to the Applied Sciences Building, which now houses the Departments of Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics, will provide space for new faculty offices, research laboratories, and teaching laboratories.

--Robert Irion