CMU expands on partnership with CU in offering civil engineering program

David Hartman, vice president and director of engineering with Armstrong Consultants in Grand Junction, speaks at a news conference at Colorado Mesa University announcing a new program offering a civil engineering degree. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
David Hartman, vice president and director of engineering with Armstrong Consultants in Grand Junction, speaks at a news conference at Colorado Mesa University announcing a new program offering a civil engineering degree. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

David Hartman would like to hire more homegrown engineers to work at his firm and expects an expanded program between Colorado Mesa University and the University of Colorado offering a civil engineering degree to help.

“Today, that process changes,” said Hartman, vice president and director of engineering with Armstrong Consultants, a Grand Junction-based firm that provides a range of services to airports.

Gigi Richard, a professor directing the civil engineering program at CMU, said the results of a survey indicate other businesses would like to do the same. “There’s a very clear demand for new civil engineering graduates in Western Colorado.”

Hartman and Richard were among the people who spoke at a news conference at CMU announcing the program, which begins with the fall semester.

The announcement comes as construction is scheduled to soon begin on a new computer science and engineering building on the CMU campus in Grand Junction.

The civil engineering degree program builds on the partnership between CMU and CU that enables students to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from CU while attending classes at CMU. About 400 students are enrolled in the program.

Under the civil engineering degree program, students similarly will complete CMU coursework their first two years, then CU coursework their final two years. The first graduates of the civil engineering program are expected to earn their degrees in 2019.

Hartman said it’s sometimes difficult to recruit and retain engineers because they don’t have family in the area or other ties that motivate them to want to stay. But that would change in hiring engineers who’ve grown up in the area and attended college here, he said.

Richard said the results of a survey of businesses and agencies in Western Colorado that hire or work with civil engineers found that a total of 61.5 percent of those that responded perceived a moderate or high need for new civil engineering graduates. Survey results also reflected an interested in hiring not only graduates, but also interns, she said.

Hartman said civil engineers work on a variety of projects involving not only airports, but also bridges, roads and stormwater lines.

Emma Gardner, a sophomore at CMU, said she enrolled in the program because civil engineers play an important role. “They directly impact the quality of life.”

The expanded engineering program eventually will be housed in a new computer science and engineering building. Construction on the 87,000 square-foot building is expected to begin this fall, with completion set for August 2017.

The building also will house the John McConnell Math and Science Center. John McConnell, a retired physicist, founded the center in 1990 as part of his efforts to educate and mentor public school students on math and science. The center offers interactive displays, special events, field trips and resources for parents and teachers.

In the meantime, Hartman said he’s anxious for the new civil engineering degree program to start producing new graduates. “Engineers are just plain handy to have around. Let’s make more.”