Siena Heights offers a stand-alone general engineering program where students will be able to talk to other engineers because they will learn the basics in different disciplines. Integrating the liberal arts into the program means students will know about the world around them before going out into the world to design projects and solve problems.
The liberal arts component also strengthens an engineer’s marketability when it’s done in a comprehensive way. The program is based on active learning and not just lecturing. Students will be expected to produce a portfolio before graduation that shows what they have learned.
Students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights in general engineering, and offers degrees in mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering. Siena Heights will continue the partnership with the University of North Dakota, where students can earn either an additional bachelor’s degree from UND in MECHANICAL or ELECTRICAL engineering. CHEMICAL engineering degree graduates usually major in chemistry at Siena.
SHU’s general engineering program will seek accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s Engineering Accreditation Commission as soon as possible.
To learn more about the University of North Dakota's program, click here.
Dr. Mark Palmer calls himself the “Practical PhD.” Siena Heights University’s new associate professor of Engineering is taking that practical approach to the classroom.
Dr. Palmer, who arrived at SHU for the fall semester, is charged with developing a general engineering degree program for the university. For several years, Siena Heights has partnered with the University of North Dakota to offer a dual degree program. Under that arrangement, students graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights in a major of their choice, and also earned an additional bachelor’s degree from UND in either mechanical, chemical or electrical engineering.
“We’re going to continue the partnership with North Dakota, but we’re developing our stand-alone general engineering program,” Dr. Palmer said. “Our students will be able to graduate with a degree from Siena in general engineering as well as the University of North Dakota mechanical or electrical engineering degree. Chemical engineers usually major in chemistry at Siena.”
Dr. Palmer said the advantage of a general engineering program is that students will be able to talk to other engineers because they will learn the basics in different disciplines. He said because of SHU’s liberal arts focus, integrating the liberal arts into the engineering program means students will know about the world around them before going out into the world to design projects and solve problems. He sees that as distinct advantage.
“The liberal arts component also strengthens an engineer’s marketability when it’s done in a comprehensive way,” Dr. Palmer said. “The program is based on active learning and not just lecturing. Students will be expected to produce a portfolio before graduation that shows what they have learned.”
He is currently talking to SHU’s theater department about helping to engineer set designs, and is also interested in developing collaborations with other academic programs.
“When you think about theater, you’re changing sets frequently so you have to build stuff that has mechanical integrity that can move and be switched and is safe,” Dr. Palmer said. “Take special effects. That’s chemical. That’s electrical. So there’s a lot of engineering that’s going on in theater, and what I like about it is it’s something that students can see applied quickly.”
A licensed professional engineer, Dr. Palmer has more than 20 years of higher education teaching experience. He taught in the engineering program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and most recently at Kettering University, where he spent more than 16 years. His specialty is in materials and manufacturing.
Dr. Palmer said he is focused on the “fundamentals” when building SHU’s engineering program.
“The fundamentals creep up in any discipline,” Dr. Palmer said. “A mechanical engineer designing a car today has to know about electric circuits, especially with electric vehicles coming. An electrical engineer can design something, and they have to put the circuit into something that is going to hold it up. Chemical engineers who build plants definitely need to know something about structure.
“I definitely want it to be based on active learning and not just lecturing. That’s been another challenge with the pandemic, is it’s very difficult to throw problems out to have students do in class and discuss their progression in the problem-solving. … I want to see as much hands-on as we can do within the budget constraints of the university.”
He said teaching engineering in a COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, but he’s adapting.
“With engineering, it’s a lot of math,” Dr. Palmer said. “You can write it on the board, but you can’t do that remotely. So you have to write it all, scan it in. It takes a lot of time.”
He said he is also focused on getting Siena Heights’ program accredited through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s Engineering Accreditation Commission. As someone with program evaluator experience who helps to write licensing exams for engineers, he said he’s been gearing up for accreditation “from day one.”
An Eagle Scout who had been involved in scouting for almost 40 years, Dr. Palmer said that experience helped form his teaching philosophy.
“(Scouting) is very much into teaching by learning and doing, not just hearing something and memorizing it,” Dr. Palmer said. “That’s guided my teaching.”
He said having that basic understanding of the different engineering concentrations helps engineers “know who to ask and what questions to ask when they get out in the world and have to deal with other engineers.”
The program is actively searching for new projects, internships and partners. And when students graduate from his program, he said, “they will be able to talk to other engineers because they’ll get the basics in different disciplines. That’s why being well-rounded is important. I think that the liberal arts component strengthens an engineer's marketability when it's done in a comprehensive way that Siena Heights does it.”
For more information about Siena Heights University’s engineering program, visit go.sienaheights.edu.