Franciscan University’s engineering department isn’t the most widely discussed program on campus — yet there are changes in store that will give future Catholic engineers greater opportunities. A new associate’s degree is offering engineering students a more flexible course load to tuck under their belt when they graduate from Franciscan University.
In the typical “3+2” program, a student pursuing engineering would receive a bachelor of science in mathematics in three years, then transfer to a school such as the University of Notre Dame to receive a bachelor of science in engineering in two years.
Franciscan University has also offered a “2+2” program, where a student would receive a general associate of arts degree from Franciscan University then transfer to another school, like Catholic University of America.
While successful for many students, the current programs at Franciscan University have not proven very convenient or appropriate for every student’s situation. Therefore, to accommodate the needs of students who are pursuing a bachelor of science in engineering, Franciscan University has decided to start providing an associate of science degree in natural and applied science, according to the course catalog.
Justin Greenly, who holds a doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Cornell University and is an engineering professor at Franciscan University, expressed optimism at the launch of this new opportunity for engineering students, saying that it will give them “a relevant … degree from Franciscan on the way toward their BS degree in engineering from our partner schools.”
Greenly commented that the course requirements for the existing associate of arts degree did not accurately represent the course load taken by engineering students at Franciscan.
The new associate of science degree allows the student to enjoy a solid Catholic liberal arts core while also focusing on classes relevant to his or her specialization in the applied sciences. Greenly said that the new degree is “for students to have a degree from Franciscan so that they are an alumni (sic) and have something tangible with a good title.”
Students such as junior Zachary Mercugliano, who is one of the five students graduating this May with the new degree, appreciate the opportunity to have the experience of a school like Franciscan and pursue an engineering degree.
Mercugliano said he appreciated the flexibility of having a rigorous but balanced workload, allowing him to take classes in diverse topics. He emphasized that the new associate of science degree offered a new way to transition to the partner school.
Mercugliano especially noted the benefit of being able to have “the best of both worlds,” earning a solid engineering education with a solid foundation in the liberal arts. Mercugliano explained that this integration “gave me a more well-rounded education.” It also gave him an outlet to discover “the things that are more truly human about us.”
Besides academics and the personal impact of the program, Mercugliano expressed appreciation for the opportunity to attend “one of the stronger Catholic schools” while pursuing an engineering degree.
He specifically said that the new associate’s degree has helped him follow more personally tailored pursuits within academics as well as extracurricular activities such as household life, the Austria experience and running a small business. Others within the program have used the more flexible schedule to pursue research in robotics and computer programming.
In May, Mercugliano will be part of the first group to graduate with the associate of science degree in natural and applied science. The group’s graduation will be part of the science graduation ceremony.