Expanding Engineering

January 31, 2004

 

Duke's board of trustees, meeting in October, approved a proposal to expand the undergraduate enrollment of the Pratt School of Engineering by 200 students over the next four years. Beginning in the fall of 2005, fifty additional engineering undergraduates will be added to each of the next four incoming classes. This will increase Pratt's enrollment from 889 to 1,089, which will constitute about 18 percent of Duke's undergraduate population (up from 15 percent). This is the first time since 1991-92 that trustees have approved increasing the undergraduate enrollment.

Provost Peter Lange, the university's top academic official, says the timing is right for the move. "Demand for Pratt's undergraduate education is strong and growing. At the same time, the quality of applicants and matriculants is increasing." In 2002-03, SAT scores for the middle 50 percent of first-year Pratt students ranged from 1,440 to 1,540, a record high.

One of the goals of the university's strategic plan, "Building on Excellence," is to strengthen significantly Duke's science and engineering programs. Trustees approved "Building on Excellence" in 2001.

In conjunction with the enrollment expansion, trustees also approved the construction of a new 138-bed residence hall on East Campus, where all first-year students live. The new dorm, to be built northwest of Randolph Residence Hall, not only will house some of the additional students, but also will alleviate crowding in other East Campus dorms where small rooms are being used as doubles and triples. The new dorm, projected to cost $13.8 million, is expected to open in the fall of 2005.

Already, the number of tenure-track faculty at Pratt has grown from seventy in 1999 to more than ninety in 2004. Even with the expansion of the student population, the student-faculty ratio will improve from 12.7:1 to 12.1:1. All undergraduates will take part in individually mentored research or design experiences, making Duke's engineering program one of the most personalized in the nation, says Pratt Dean Kristina Johnson. Duke will also invest in additional teaching assistants, facilities, and laboratories.

Construction of the $97-million, 322,000-square-foot Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine, and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) complex is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2004. The complex's west wing will be home to the Pratt School's new Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems, and the larger east wing will house new interdisciplinary initiatives in biomedical engineering and materials sciences. The center will feature undergraduate teaching and project labs, research facilities, and a variety of spaces where faculty and students can both formally meet and informally interact.