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WVU Tech Celebrates 60 Years of Engineering

In honor of National Engineers Week, WVU Tech reflects on the last 60 year history of our engineering programs.

Long known for its academic prestige in engineering, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) first received authorization from the State Board of Education to offer a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1952. Since then Tech has been an innovator in the various fields of engineering, establishing its reputation as one of the state’s leading ABET accredited undergraduate STEM institutions.

The first engineering degrees awarded by Tech were in electrical engineering in 1955. The class of five were the first-ever Tech engineering graduates. “Enrolling at Tech and in the electrical engineering program changed my life forever,” explained Tom Dressler, Class of 1955. Since then the university has awarded more 5,600 engineering degrees. Located in Montgomery, W.Va., the institution has historically served the students of West Virginia. Living proof of the university’s mission, many Tech graduates have chosen to stay, work and live in the state.

The current engineering building was completed in 1967, which houses all of WVU Tech’s engineering programs, with hands-on research being conducted in the labs in an adjacent building. The university’s civil, electrical and mechanical engineering programs have held accreditation since 1968. Tech’s chemical engineering and electronics engineering technology programs were accredited in 1972 and 1982, respectively. In honor of Tech’s longest-serving president, the college was officially renamed the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering in 1986.

As industrial needs have evolved, so too have WVU Tech’s academic offerings, including the introduction of a 2+2 aerospace engineering program in 1999 in collaboration with West Virginia University. Both the civil and mechanical engineering technology emphases received ABET accreditation in 2001. A separate computer engineering program was started in 2005 and accredited in 2007. The college currently offers nine ABET accredited engineering and engineering technology programs: aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering technology, engineering technology civil emphasis and engineering technology mechanical emphasis.

Named dean in 2012, Dr. Zeljko Torbica has been charged with leading the college into the 21st century. “One of our proudest legacies has been our strong traditional engineering curriculum with a practical orientation. This approach has served our programs and reputation well,” he explained. Torbica sees the future of engineering in integration, with many engineering and science sub-disciplines converging. “I also believe that in order to produce top-notch engineers of tomorrow, our curriculum needs to be carefully balanced to emphasize the development of both ‘how to produce’ and ‘what to produce’ capabilities. At WVU Tech, we are educating top-notch engineers, technologists, scientists and mathematicians who will go out into the world and have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”