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Sources: Ellen Stauffer, 785-532-2562, ellen@k-state.edu;
and William Dunn 785-532-5628, dunn@k-state.edu
Website: http://www.dce.k-state.edu/engineering/minors/nuclear/
News release prepared by: Megan Molitor, 785-532-3452, molitor@k-state.edu

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ENGINEERING AWARENESS: NEW NUCLEAR ENGINEERING MINOR OPEN TO PROFESSIONALS, BIG 12 ENGINEERING STUDENTS

MANHATTAN -- A new Kansas State University minor is offering major opportunities for engineering students and professionals across the country.

Enabled by the Big 12 Engineering Consortium -- founded as a means to increase access to engineering courses -- students from K-State's College of Engineering, other Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology-accredited institutions and working professionals can expand their knowledge and their employment opportunities through K-State's new minor in nuclear engineering.

"It's a one-of-a-kind program right now, and we're excited about that," said Ellen Stauffer, a program coordinator at the K-State Division of Continuing Education.

Stauffer said the minor is being offered for the first time this fall semester. K-State students who are majoring in any engineering program may pick up the nuclear engineering minor to increase their success in the job market after graduation or simply because they are interested in the field.

Stauffer said that industry professionals and engineering educators have noted a resurgence of interest in nuclear power in the U.S. as a way to address the country's energy needs and combat problems commonly associated with widespread usage of fossil fuels.

Previously, only students majoring in mechanical engineering at K-State could add an option in nuclear engineering to their curriculum.

The new minor in nuclear engineering is also available to students attending any engineering program in the country that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Stauffer said the minor's availability to students who don't attend K-State is what sets it apart.

"A student at Baylor University, for example, could be working on a bachelor's degree in engineering and be set to graduate in May. They can take this minor through K-State at the same time," she said.

To accommodate students who may be far away, the classes for the minor will be offered online as well as on K-State's Manhattan campus, said Bill Dunn, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering and undergraduate program administrator for the department.

The online portion of the program allows courses to be taken from anywhere. However, Dunn said, students who choose to take the optional laboratory courses as electives will be required to spend two weeks on campus.

The program's flexibility also benefits employees already in the engineering field who would like to broaden their professional horizons. Employers in the engineering industry have expressed to K-State engineering officials that they prefer current and future employees have increased information in the nuclear field for developing more energy, making sure plants are updated and keeping up with regulations, Stauffer said.

"A lot of engineers were being hired who had electrical or mechanical backgrounds, but not nuclear backgrounds," she said. "We wanted to give employees an advantage by offering extra training in that area."

Dunn said that the Big 12 Engineering Consortium is bigger than just the nuclear engineering minor. It provides an opportunity for students from virtually anywhere, especially at Big 12 universities, to take courses through K-State and other Big 12 schools that offer nuclear engineering courses.

"In principle, K-State students can take courses through other schools, but since most of the consortium courses are in nuclear engineering, that doesn’t happen very often," Dunn said. "As the program broadens into other specialized fields, it will benefit K-State students even more."

However, the benefits of the nuclear engineering minor, in conjunction with the Big 12 Engineering Consortium, are already becoming clear. Stauffer said technology has changed, so earning the minor is a good way for students who graduated years ago to enhance their knowledge.

Because students from other universities can enroll for a course at K-State through their home institution or through K-State's Division of Continuing Education, the ease and convenience benefits the university as well.

"Our engineering distance programs include a variety of degree and certificate opportunities, and offering this new nuclear minor program will possibly make employees and students aware of our other online programs," Stauffer said. "Conversely, students already enrolled in K-State online engineering programs may want to investigate adding this new minor to their current curriculum. We're always trying to offer additional educational opportunities."

Students can apply for the program online, and can be admitted and enrolled in as little as two days. Stauffer said other colleges at K-State have expressed interest in opening their minor programs to off-campus students who have already graduated form K-State, so additional programs may be introduced soon.

For more information on the nuclear engineering minor, go to: http://www.dce.k-state.edu/engineering/minors/nuclear/.