Chapman student at computer
Chapman University Strategic Plan

» Establishing the Fowler School of Engineering

Chapman has been discussing the prospect of a School of Engineering for most of the past decade. With the growth in size and strength of the Schmid College of Science and Technology, our expansion into the health sciences, and the completion of the Keck Center for Science and Engineering, the university is now poised for this important new initiative. The generous gift by the Fowler family provides a crucial financial foundation for a new school.

Engineering is critically important to the economy of California and the United States. California leads the nation in most high technology industry metrics, including employment (968,800 jobs) and salaries (average salary of $123,900 per year). California’s tech workers had the nation’s highest annual average wage, which is 131 percent more than the nation’s average private sector wage of $53,600. In Orange County, there is a clear need for engineering talent. A recent McKinsey study reveals that there are 352 biomedical companies, 494 high-tech companies and 29 clean-tech companies in Orange County.

While other California universities produce high-quality engineers, they are not meeting the needs of the business and scientific community or the demand from students. From 2008 to 2013 applications to engineering programs at the University of California increased by 80 percent, while actual freshman enrollments increased at less than half that pace.

Moreover, California universities are not producing enough engineering graduates to meet the needs of employers. Only 4.4 percent of the undergraduate degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities are in engineering, compared to 13 percent in key European countries (the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and France) and 23 percent in key Asian countries (India, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore). In the past, the United States has been able to attract engineering graduates from other countries to meet the demand. Increasingly, however, employers in other countries are offering attractive opportunities for engineers, with excellent salaries, facilities and growth potential. Thus, we can no longer assume that the world’s top engineering talent will want to come to the United States to work.

Beyond the economic and demographic justifications for starting an engineering school, there are several benefits to Chapman University: 

  • Student quality. Engineering students tend to have the highest academic credentials among entering students. These students tend to raise the overall quality of students in all programs.
  • Employment outcomes. Given the demographics, engineering graduates will improve the employment outcomes of the University.
  • Continued growth of sciences. The establishment of the Fowler School of Engineering will attract additional focus on our existing basic science and health science programs.
  • Interdisciplinary programs. Engineering is a gateway to other disciplines as engineers have the highest acceptance rates to graduate programs in health care, law, and business. In addition, the opportunities for synergistic undergraduate programs and “4+1” graduate programs in law, business and film will provide new opportunities for students in those areas.
  • Extramural research funding. Engineering faculty are traditionally very active in procuring extramural research funding, which will grow Chapman’s reputation as an important research center.
  • Engagement of the business community. Engineering programs will attract additional industrial investment and engagement.

The first year of the engineering curriculum will be modeled after the successful Grand Challenges Initiative in Schmid College. This initiative provides students with the opportunity to tackle major problems in teams with an interdisciplinary focus. This GCI curriculum directly addresses our goal of training engineers who possess important communication, teambuilding and leadership skills in addition to a solid engineering foundation. These skills have been identified by prospective employers as critical to successful careers in engineering beyond the first job.

The Fowler School of Engineering will open in the fall of 2020. In this second phase of development, we plan to establish bachelors programs in computer engineering, electrical engineering, and a master’s degree program in computer science.

From a budget perspective, computer engineering and electrical engineering are more cost effective than other areas of engineering as faculty startup costs tend to be much lower. These areas are also high-demand disciplines within the California economy. Thus, expanding into computer engineering and electrical engineering represents a logical extension of existing programs. This expansion should begin at the same time the Fowler School of Engineering separates from Schmid College in the fall of 2020.

Graduate programs in engineering will allow Chapman to attract the highest quality students for advanced study. They also provide some of the best opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration between engineering and law, business and film students. Moreover, high-quality faculty with research agendas tend to be attracted to schools that have graduate programs. For these reasons, our plan is to add a master’s degree program in computer science in the fall of 2022. Beyond the current five-year plan, expansion of the Fowler School of Engineering will consider mechanical, biomedical, environmental and civil engineering programs as avenues for future growth.