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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Civil and Environmental Engineering News – Fall 2014

From the Chair’s Desk

Balasingam MuhunthanGreetings alumni and friends,
It is a great pleasure to share this edition of the civil and environmental engineering newsletter with you. It has been a very exciting and eventful year of changes and growth in the department.

Our vibrant program continues its upward trajectory toward every benchmark and target metrics. In the past decade, our undergraduate enrollment has more than doubled and now stands close to 600 students with a graduation rate of about 120 students per year. We have become the 13th largest civil engineering program in the nation. Nearly 160 students received their bachelor’s degree in civil engineering last year.

Recognizing that engineering graduates are critical to a growing robust economy, and prompted by the increased demand for engineers, the Washington state legislature has provided WSU with significant support to grow engineering programs. Given the increased numbers in the civil engineering program and with new fund allocations, we have been able to hire eight new tenure-track faculty in both 2013 and 2014. We have also hired four clinical non-tenure track faculty primarily for teaching of our course curricula. We’re excited about the new faculty that have recently joined the department and look forward to the transformative contributions they will make in research, teaching, and scholarship. We will continue with hiring at least three more tenure-track faculty in 2015.

Research output from the department has doubled as well, with annual research expenditures nearing $8 million per year. Research by our faculty is having a significant impact in areas such as aviation biofuels, bio-asphalt and recycled materials, air and water quality, and understanding and mitigation of the effects of climate change on water resources, and natural hazards.

With support from CEE alumnus Dick Colf and the Colf Family Foundation, we have established the Dick Colf Distinguished Professorships, which provide critical support for two top researchers. Especially during a time when we have a significantly growing program, these distinguished professorships make a difference to our professors, providing much needed tools and support that allow them to more easily focus their energy on critical research questions.

With support from industry, we have also started a popular new construction engineering emphasis area within the department. This new program has filled up quickly in its first year, and we are looking to offer a full-fledged accredited bachelor’s degree in construction engineering soon. Given the increased focus on the design-build option by the construction industry, this unique engineering degree will provide a strong background in civil core design disciplines coupled with construction courses and will meet the significant industry need for such graduates.

We are also in the process of improving our teaching labs, many of which need significant upgrades. Support from industry has already come from Kiewit Corporation, which has helped us upgrade the asphalt technology lab. We have also upgraded our undergraduate computing laboratory from donor funds, and I look forward to working with other partners to improve other teaching labs.

Our students and faculty continue to shine. Their outstanding achievements have been recognized with many awards and honors. A few of them highlighted in this issue of the CEE Newsletter give you a glimpse of the greatness of our students and faculty.

In closing, the above would not be possible if not for the long standing support from alumni, industry, and friends. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your generosity and for your continued valuable support. You make a tremendous difference in helping our programs succeed.

I look forward to working with you to continue to move our program forward. Please feel free to visit us when you’re on the WSU campus to find out more about what we’re doing. I look forward to hearing from you.

Balasingam Muhunthan