CMU adds degree in civil engineering

David Hartman with Armstrong Consulting Inc. in Grand Junction talks about the importance of the new civil engineering program at Colorado Mesa University.

Director of Cilil Engineering at CMU Gigi Richard.

Colorado Mesa University students can now earn a degree in civil engineering, university officials announced Tuesday, a program expansion made possible through the university’s partnership with the University of Colorado in Boulder.

CMU launched a four-year mechanical engineering program in 2008 by working with CU, and the new civil engineering program will work the same way — students take CMU classes for two years and are then enrolled at CU for the final two years, but are able to stay at Colorado Mesa.

Benefits of the program include paying less for tuition and the opportunity for greater graduate retention in the western Colorado workforce, according to CMU President Tim Foster.

A university survey of local engineering firms showed that more than 60 percent of employers thought there was a “moderate or high need” for new civil engineering graduates.

Emma Gardner, a sophomore at Colorado Mesa, is one of three students who are already enrolled in the new program. Gardner said staying in Grand Junction will motivate her to find work here after graduation.

“Once you get into a community, it can make moving back more difficult,” Gardner said. “Because I’m graduating here, I’ll have more contacts here in the Grand Valley and I’ll be more integrated in the civil engineering community.”

The new program is coupled with a $26 million engineering building that’s set to break ground in September and open in August 2017.

There are about 400 students who are on an engineering track or enrolled in the program who could benefit from the new building, according to CMU spokeswoman Dana Nunn. 

The engineering building will also house the John McConnell Math and Science Center, which currently shares a building with New Emerson Elementary School.

Kelly Bevill, the first civil engineering faculty member at CMU, said students will learn drawing for civil engineering, geomatics and fluid mechanics during the first year of classes.

Bevill taught construction management at CMU, but her degree is in civil engineering, she said.

“There are so many different things you’re exposed to and so many different types of people that you get to work for and with,” Bevill said. “You can work for individuals, for cities or for an individual who wants to install a water well.”

The variety also appealed to CMU student Ross Fischer, who is enrolled in the mechanical engineering program but is considering a switch now that civil engineering is available.

“I started thinking a lot about personal fulfillment, and I liked the options that civil provided me,” Fischer said. “It’s about serving the public.”

Gardner said she likes knowing that she will make a difference, even if it’s not obvious to many people.  “I can make a definite difference in the way that someone drives to work or gets their water,” she said. “That’s what opened my eyes to it, that you can go through and look at all the things that you had a hand in making happen.”


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