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A-State Resurrects College of Engineering & Computer Science

3 min read

It’s a breakup with benefits.

In a reorganization favored by faculty and local business leaders, Arkansas State University is breaking apart the combined engineering, agriculture and technology programs and repositioning computer science with engineering.

The results are the College of Engineering & Computer Science and the seperate College of Agriculture & Technology.

“Engineering and computer science, it’s a happy marriage,” ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “This is really an effort to give both of those colleges, agriculture and engineering, their own brand and their own story to tell and give them some independence.”

Hired in the summer of 2017, Damphousse described the evolution of the new college as a “pretty organic” process that began in early meetings with the faculty and administration, including system president Chuck Welch.

Damphousse learned there had been ongoing interest in separating the programs, which had been combined years before. Meetings with local farmers and business and industry leaders further reinforced the idea of two stand-alone colleges.

“Everyone decided it was the right thing to do, and then we took it to the board of trustees for approval,” Damphousse said.

Damphousse said he was aware of the Jonesboro area’s role as an agricultural leader but was surprised by its status as a manufacturer. Led by companies like Hytrol, a material handling solutions provider, Jonesboro has a great demand for engineers, Damphousse said.

“I just did not realize the heavy industrial base that we have here,” he said. “We serve an important need for that industry and this College of Engineering & Computer Science will meet the needs that they have.”

Damphousse said the revamped schools are at least partially a reflection of efforts by the university and local community to work more hand in hand. It is a chance, he said, to attract students, an upside for ASU, and to provide the local workforce with skilled employees.

“The dream of any community that has a university in it is that people will come to the university, get a degree and stay,” Damphousse said.

Students will be able to matriculate in the new engineering college by December, Damphousse said. Recent counts showed approximately 350 engineering majors, a number he expects to improve to 500 in the new college.

Damphousse said Tim Burcham, dean of the former agriculture, technology and engineering school, will handle things on an interim basis while ASU seeks a dean for the College of Engineering & Computer Science.

“Only one person could have done this as well as he could and that’s Tim Burcham,” Damphousse said.

No new courses are planned currently, but that could change, depending on decisions by the new dean.

“We will be searching for someone who is a visionary,” Damphousse said, “who’s got the capacity to look around the corner and determine what the College of Engineering & Computer Science will be teaching in the future.”

The median salary for a dean of engineering, according to Salary.com, is $221,550 and ranges from $181,314-$266,489. Damphousse said he hadn’t settled on a salary figure yet and the amount A-State pays the new dean will depend on a number of things, including who the candidate is.

But he said he would “go back to the well” if need be to land the right person.

“We are, like all state universities, stretched pretty thin financially,” Damphousse said. “You have to keep investing in your people and your college. It’s like any business. If you stop investing in it, you can lose your business. We have to make strategic decisions on how you spend money.”

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