The Arkansas Department of Higher Education has approved a new environmental engineering program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, effective fall 2014.
Through required and elective courses, UALR’s program will expose students to all of the major areas of environmental engineering, including water resources, air resources, and land resources.
Environmental engineers design infrastructure, public works, and processes that protect the environment and public health, according to Dr. Nickolas Jovanovic, an associate professor in the UALR Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering.
Jovanovic said the program addition makes UALR one of only a handful of universities in the world to offer the entire “family” of civil engineering disciplines under one roof–civil, architectural, construction, and environmental.
“Environmental engineering is a great program to offer at this time because it fits a business and community need and also aligns well with the resources we already have,” Jovanovic said.
According to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, the median annual wage for environmental engineers was $80,890 in May 2012, the most recent data available, and job growth is expected to be faster than average.
Referencing a recently published survey by the American Society for Engineering Education, Jovanovic added that almost 50 percent of environmental engineering graduates in the U.S. have been female in recent years, the highest percentage of any engineering discipline.
In addition, Little Rock’s position as the population, financial, and government center of the state makes UALR the ideal location to study engineering disciplines, according to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Zulma Toro.
“Engineering design firms, contractors, and government agencies involved in infrastructure and buildings are mostly located right here in Little Rock. Essentially, the metropolitan area serves as a living laboratory for our students,” she said.
In fact, numerous area businesses and government agencies wrote letters of support for the new program, stating the benefits of having a workforce prepared for the kind of 21st century jobs that promote the growth and development of the state.
Some business owners even offered to provide continued program support through internships, guest lectures, and possible scholarship funding.
Two accomplished faculty members with expertise in environmental engineering, Dr. Lashun King Thomas and Dr. Hollis Bray, will join UALR on Aug. 16 to administer the new program.
Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tennessee State University. Dr. Bray holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Louisiana Tech University and B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas.
Jovanovic, who holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and is the advisor for all engineering majors in the department, said the rigorous program is a great fit, not only for students who want to be environmental engineers but also for students who want to attend medical school, law school, or business school after graduation.