History of the College of Engineering
Deeply rooted in the history of McNeese State University, the engineering program has grown from a two-year, pre-professional to a four-year program which offers four concentrations within the Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree as well as a Master degree in Engineering with the same concentrations. Founded in 1939 as a part of the Louisiana State University system, McNeese was first known as Lake Charles Junior College. The engineering program began in the fall semester of 1939 as a two-year pre-engineering program, which coordinated with the four-year engineering program at Louisiana State University.
During the 1940-1941 academic year, the institution was renamed John McNeese Junior College, and the first official engineering course (Mechanical Drawing) was offered. By 1943-1944, a “Pre-Engineering and War Service” curriculum that included meteorology, navigation, and the use of the slide rule was introduced.
Between 1944 and 1972, the engineering program experienced a number of incarnations. In 1944, the Pre-Engineering curriculum was included in the Department of Mathematics and Science, and programs of study in Agricultural, Chemical, Civil, Hydraulic, Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial, Aeronautical, Petroleum, and Sanitary Engineering and Engineering Mechanics were developed. By 1950-1951, engineering mechanics, hydraulic, industrial, and aeronautical engineering, were no longer offered, and in 1953, the university was reorganized into divisions with Pre-Engineering placed under the aegis of the Division of Liberal Arts.
In 1957, the institution was renamed McNeese State College, and the engineering program, now located in the Department of Physical Sciences, grew to include a baccalaureate degree in General Engineering as well as the first three years of work toward completing programs in Agricultural, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, and Petroleum Engineering. To provide laboratory space, a Quonset hut was moved to the southeast corner of campus on the north side of Contraband Bayou. This building housed the shop and a fluids lab and provided storage for surveying equipment. In 1959, at a cost of $16,000, a metal building was constructed next to the Quonset hut to accommodate a drawing lab, one classroom, and one office. This building is still functional and now houses the Maintenance Department Automobile Shop.
In 1963, the General Engineering curriculum was expanded to include emphases in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Petrochemical Engineering. The Department of Engineering was formed in 1964 and Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering were offered. At this time, the Department of Engineering was moved about seven miles from the main campus to the former Chennault Air Force Base on the eastern edge of Lake Charles. A $1.039 million grant enabled the University to purchase new equipment and renovate the buildings at Chennault: Bldg 1020 for civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering labs, Bldg 1004 for engineering graphics, Bldg 412 for classrooms and offices, Bldg 608 for chemical engineering labs, and Bldg 630 for the engineering library.
In 1968, yet another reorganization relocated the Department of Engineering in the School of Science and Technology. A Pulp and Paper Technology option was added to the Chemical Engineering curriculum at this time. When McNeese State College became McNeese State University in 1972, Masters of Engineering programs in Chemical and Electrical Engineering were introduced, and Civil and Mechanical Engineering were combined to form an Engineering Sciences curriculum.
In 1972, the School of Engineering and Technology, which included both the Engineering and Technology departments, was formed with Dr. O. C. Karkalits serving as the first Dean. The Engineering and Technology Laboratory (ETL) building, constructed on the main campus in 1979, housed the engineering labs, but provided very little room for classrooms or offices. The Engineering Department was re-located from the Chennault location to the main campus with faculty offices located on the first floor of a nearby dorm. Classes were spread across campus. In 1981, the School of Engineering and Technology became the College of Engineering and Technology, and in 1982, shortly after the creation of the College, the Department of Engineering was split into the Department of Chemical and Electrical Engineering and the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering to handle the increased workload.
By 1983, Drew Hall, the current home of the College of Engineering, was constructed to house the Engineering faculty offices and classrooms (as well as the Nursing and Technology Departments).
First accredited by ABET in 1981, the engineering program has faithfully maintained its accreditation and continues to promote life-long learning and professional development. By 1991, the two Departments had grown to 17 engineering faculty (4 CE, 3 CHE, 6 ME, and 4 EE) and one adjunct EE professor. Most faculty had significant industrial experience, and consulting with industry was encouraged as a means of professional development. Professional registration was a prerequisite for promotion to associate professor. At this point in the history of the engineering program, the average teaching load was three courses.
In 1994, the two engineering departments were consolidated into one department for financial reasons. This merger also emphasized that there was only one engineering program. The four degrees were renamed concentrations within the Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree to strengthen the program and ensure that the four engineering programs would not be identified as low-completer programs in the State, many of which were being eliminated by the Board of Regents.
Around 1998, the Board of Regents required that all baccalaureate programs have a maximum of 125 credit hours for a degree. At that time, the various engineering concentrations required between 138 and 141 credit hours. The College redesigned its baccalaureate programs in an effort to reduce credit hours in all concentrations to 128, successfully petitioning the Board of Regents to approve the exception to the 125-hour maximum. In 2000, workloads for engineering faculty were increased to 12 credit hours (four courses) per semester.
During the morning hours of September 24, 2005, The eye of Hurricane Rita made landfall on the Louisiana–Texas border (Sabine Pass) about 25 miles west of Lake Charles, Louisiana. On the eastern side of the storm and close to the eye, the city of Lake Charles and the McNeese State University campus sustained severe and widespread damage. Property damage on the campus was in excess of 30 million dollars. The MSU campus was closed, the entrances barricaded, and everyone, except the military and emergency workers, was refused entry to campus grounds and buildings for five weeks. Every building on campus was damaged to some degree by wind and/or rain. The majority of MSU facilities reopened gradually, beginning October 28, 2005. No University housing was available for residential students on their return. Private apartment complexes near the campus were demolished by the storm. Unless students had taken books, notes, and other school materials when they evacuated, all was lost. All fall 2005 classes on campus were rescheduled, class times expanded, and the semester was extended until December 23, 2005. Following the hurricane, enrollment dropped approximately twelve percent (1000 students). These were students who for one reason or another withdrew from the university.
Drew Hall, where engineering faculty offices and classrooms are located, remained closed until January 22, 2008. The Engineering and Technology Laboratory (ETL) building, used exclusively for laboratory functions, sustained much less damage than Drew Hall, but also had to undergo repair and mold remediation. Like the other buildings on the campus, ETL had to undergo environmental testing, including architectural, mechanical, and engineering assessments before reopening for use. From late October until December 16, 2005, engineering faculty and students worked to complete coursework. Classes were scattered across campus in temporary buildings, computer training rooms, computer labs in other departments, and conference rooms.
As campus life for many engineering students and faculty returned to normal in the Spring 2006 semester, the Engineering Department had to readjust to life without regular offices, classrooms and labs. With classroom space a premium across campus, scheduling remained difficult until the Spring 2008 semester. Drew Hall successfully reopened to faculty and students January 22, 2008. Many faculty members spent the winter break packing up the offices and supervising the return of furniture and equipment to Drew Hall. Faculty members also spent time during their 2008 spring break supervising the delivery and installation of new furniture and equipment.
In June 2006, after thirty-four years of service to the college and the university, Dr. O. C. Karkalits retired as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology and Dr. Nikos Kiritsis became the second Dean of the college in August of that year. The College name changed from College of Engineering and Technology to College of Engineering and Engineering Technology to reflect that all Engineering Technology programs were acredited (2 and 4-year level). In the Spring of 2010, the Engineering Department hosted the American Society for Engineering Education Gulf Southwest Regional Conference with about 200 attendees.
During the fall of 2010, the Engineering Program at McNeese State University received a six-year accreditation term, with reaccreditation by comprehensive review during the 2015-2016 academic year. Since the fall of 2010, the Engineering Program enjoyed an almost 45% enrollment increase (487 students in the fall of 2010 to 706 in the fall of 2014).