Academics, Campus wide, College of Science and Mathematics

Making room for science, engineering growth

By Jenna Johnson | September 14, 2020
Charleston Southern engineering student in classroom
CSU students learn electrical engineering concepts in a lab. The College of Science and Mathematics launched a Bachelor of Science in engineering degree last fall. Photo by Richard Esposito

Charleston Southern University broke ground this summer on a new science and engineering building to house its growing academic programs. The 17,500-square-foot space will be completed in phases and includes labs, office space and work rooms. CSU plans to expand the building in future phasing to 28,000-square-feet total.

The project is a result of the launch of CSU’s 2020-2025 strategic plan in January. CSU President Dr. Dondi Costin stated that the plan was designed to guarantee that everything CSU does helps students become the servant leaders God wants them to be.

“Regardless of job title or position on the organization chart, servant leadership is influencing your team to accomplish its mission for the good of others and the glory of God,” he said. “One of our goals is to ‘attract and engage a vibrant student body.’ This means developing programs that meet marketplace needs.” 

Programs such as cybersecurity, aeronautics and engineering reflect that commitment.

Cybersecurity
The first to do so in the Lowcountry, CSU launched a Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity in fall 2017 with the support of area companies to meet industry demands. A Charleston Metro Chamber study estimated that 243 IT security analyst positions will open within the decade, yet only 16% of those jobs would be filled by local college graduates.

Todd Lant, vice president of IT at Blackbaud, said that he was encouraged to see focus placed on developing industry-prepared, qualified graduates in cybersecurity. “This degree program is an important step in developing critical talent to support the growth of competitive businesses in our region,” he said in a 2017 interview with CSU.

All-female cybersecurity graduating class at Charleston Southern University
The first graduates of the cybersecurity program at CSU. Photo by Richard Esposito

“We want students who graduate from CSU to still be relevant in this field 30 years later,” Dr. Valerie Sessions, affiliate professor of computer science, said. 

The cybersecurity program experienced exponential growth. In just three years, the first class of eight students has rapidly grown to over 30. “The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts that in the next 10 years, the job market related to cybersecurity is going to raise 28%,” Dr. Yu-Ju Lin, director of graduate studies in computer science, said. “If a student comes to our program, they definitely have a lot of jobs waiting for them.”

Recent graduates of CSU’s cybersecurity program have pursued careers in the defense sector, finding employment at the Naval Information Warfare Center. One of Lin’s students was recently hired at J.P. Morgan, reportedly selected over Yale and Harvard grads.

CSU maintains support from and partners with companies and organizations such as The Palmetto Roost, Charleston Women in Tech, NIWC, The Next IT Girl, Blackbaud and Benefitfocus. Learn more about this growing program at charlestonsouthern.edu/cybersecurity.

Aeronautics
Last month, CSU announced its new degree program in aeronautics, making it South Carolina’s only collegiate aeronautics program. Set to officially begin in fall 2021, the Bachelor of Science in aeronautics – professional pilot program will eventually offer three main tracks: commercial, military or missionary.

“As we look to the future, Charleston Southern will maintain our presence at the leading edge of innovation and impact,” said Costin. “Our aeronautics program is a natural extension of the university’s vision of integrating faith in learning, leading and serving as we prepare servant leaders to pursue significant lives. By preparing pilots to impact their spheres of influence as commercial, military or missionary pilots, we extend our reach into every corner of the globe.”

Professional pilot program students will conduct flight training each semester at either Summerville or Charleston International airports in safe and modern Diamond aircraft. Flight Safety will be built into the program at a foundational level. “Everything we do will be part of an overarching and fully integrated safety program. From the first class to the last checkride, the safety and security of our students will always come first,” said Colonel Christopher “C.J.” Will, founding chair of the new Aeronautics Department.

The professional pilot degree will be complemented by an aviation & space management degree, an aeronautics science minor, and an aviation maintenance management technical degree. A three-credit-hour aeronautics course—Introduction to Pilot Training—is offered this fall. Additional information can be found at charlestonsouthern.edu/aeronautics.

Engineering
Last fall, the College of Science and Mathematics launched a Bachelor of Science in engineering degree program due to the growing demand of prospective and current students. Prior to fall 2019, CSU offered an applied mathematics/engineering program in cooperation with Clemson University, University of South Carolina and The Citadel. Students would complete a three-year liberal arts program at CSU before transferring to one of those partner institutions for two years to complete the engineering courses. Upon completion, those graduates are awarded a B.S. in applied mathematics from Charleston Southern and an engineering degree from the partner institution. 

Two degrees in five years—not a bad deal. Current student Keara Walsh is in the 3+2 program and will transfer to The Citadel for her final two years to achieve an electrical engineering degree. She plans to work in the medical equipment field upon graduation and said CSU has prepared her well for the engineering aspects of the program.

“CSU is the perfect fit for me. Not only has this school pushed me to work harder than I ever have, CSU also greatly improved my confidence and my work ethic,” Walsh said.

Even with the benefits, Dr. Andrew Blauch, chair of CSU’s Engineering Department, said there are two primary disadvantages: the cost and hassle of transferring.

“Students need to pay for at least five years of higher education since it is a 3+2 program, and students must transfer to another institution,” Blauch said. 

Despite the disadvantages, the number of students in the applied mathematics/engineering program has been growing. Thus, the primary reason to begin a new program.

Blauch said, “Charleston Southern is now able to provide students an opportunity to receive a Bachelor of Science in engineering in four years without having to transfer to another institution. They will be able to receive the full benefits of a small Christian liberal arts education that CSU has to offer.”

In fall 2019 the new four-year program offered two concentrations: computer and electrical engineering. By fall 2021, students will choose from three with the addition of the mechanical engineering concentration. Mechanical engineering courses began this semester.

According to Blauch, the engineering degree prepares students for a variety of careers in many different industries such as automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and power distribution. The possibilities are vast.

“Engineers design, develop, test, install, inspect and maintain a wide variety of products and systems,” he said. “They propose new products and processes, supervise manufacturing and construction, conduct tests and perform failure analysis, provide consulting services and teach courses.”

Engineering- and technology-related companies in the Charleston area—such as Boeing, Bosch, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo—have been growing at a rapid rate. The degree program will rely on these business relationships for support and service as well as provide the talented workforce needed as those companies continue to grow. 

And growth is certainly the buzz word for this program.

“As the program develops, we plan to incorporate additional concentrations into the program,” Blauch said. Mechanical was the first addition for next fall, and manufacturing and biomedical are on the short list for consideration. For additional information about the engineering program at CSU, visit charlestonsouthern.edu/engineering.


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