Engineering program earns ‘U.S. News’ recognition

The undergraduate Engineering Program at Northern Arizona University ranks among the best in the nation for the third consecutive year, according to U.S.News & World Report.

The magazine’s annual rankings of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs lists NAU in a group of universities that ranks 36th in the nation. Others in the group include Purdue University, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

“Our focus on engaging students with real engineering design projects from their very first year, the professional and interpersonal skills that our students develop through the problem-solving-based curriculum, the close connections between faculty and students—these set us apart from many other undergraduate programs,” said Laura Huenneke, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

“Engineering education has moved into the spotlight as a national priority in the past year, so this recognition is all the more meaningful.”

The rankings are based on a peer survey of deans and senior faculty that asked them to rate each program they are familiar with.

“Much of what we do in our program is focused on the students and getting them ready for the profession of engineering,” said professor Debra Larson, chair of civil and environmental engineering. “Employers and graduate schools already know this, and it’s nice to be able to have this word spread to a larger audience through the rankings.”

NAU has nearly 900 engineering majors in six specialties, including civil, electrical, environmental and mechanical engineering, computer science and construction management.

The Engineering Program partners with industry colleagues and government officials to better engage students with real engineering experiences, Larson pointed out. She added that the staff continually helps students move through the educational system, find internships and tutoring, and apply for scholarships.

“Our size—smaller than many other engineering programs—is an advantage when students matter,” Larson said. “We really care about each and every student, are experts in that, and are able to demonstrate it every day.”

In January, NAU opened a new Engineering building, a completely renovated structure with state-of-the-art electronics and room for research, student-faculty interaction and socializing.

“Now that we have a first-rate facility to match the excellent faculty, we aim to continue building on our reputation,” Huenneke said.