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Students, faculty support Thayer expansion

Mar 27, 2014   |   by Victoria Nelsen   |   The Dartmouth

Thayer School of Engineering’s proposed expansion is expected to accommodate a growing number of students interested in the field and increase majors’ course schedule flexibility. Students and faculty interviewed said they support the expansion, announced by College President Phil Hanlon last November.

The number of undergraduate engineering majors has grown in the past five years and the department is currently at capacity, Thayer dean Joseph Helble said. Engineering students can face high levels of competition during course enrollment as many required major classes have enrollment caps.

Alumni, corporations and foundations will fund the expansion process, which will finish over the course of the next decade, Helble said. Although the exact scale has not yet been solidified, Thayer and its programs are conservatively expected to expand by 50 percent, he said. The expansion will involve significant increases in faculty, research opportunities and design course offerings for non-engineering students, as well as an expansion of Thayer’s entrepreneurship-related programs.

Hanlon’s broad vision for the College, Helble said, emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurship, increases in experiential learning and improving classroom technology use. Thayer’s expansion will help fulfill this vision, Helble said.

Dartmouth currently limits the number of students who can take advantage of Thayer’s resources, Helble said, noting that its entrepreneurially-focused Ph.D. Innovation Program admits no more than five students per year. The number of undergraduate engineering majors has grown to 85 in 2013 from 66 in 2004.

“Dartmouth students are entering a world that is and is going to be dominated by technology,” Helble said. “Engineering is the language the helps you understand a world dominated by technology.”

Thayer professors interviewed said that the expansion is a positive step.

Engineering professor Brian Pogue said the expansion is necessary to compete with peer institutions. Dartmouth has one or two experts per engineering field, while competitors like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have as many as 20. Thayer currently has 51 permanent faculty members.

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