Sophomore Justin Daniels is part of a group building a virtual campus tour where users can order – and “drink” – Katora coffee. Junior Zoe Rafter put her knowledge of voltage and wavelengths to work this semester using a circuit board.
New partnerships with Virginia schools give University of Mary Washington students like Daniels and Rafter a jumpstart on master’s coursework – and futures – in engineering. Pathway agreements with George Mason and Virginia Tech offer early grad-school admission, five-year master’s degree possibilities and résumés ready for lucrative positions across the region, all while students complete their bachelor’s degrees at Mary Washington.
“Our students will be able to enjoy all that is special about UMW – our smaller student body, being able to work more closely with faculty and the rich foundation of a liberal arts education – while being able to pursue careers in engineering,” said College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Assistant Dean Betsy Lewis.
The programs – partnerships with George Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering (VSE), launched last fall, and Virginia Tech’s School of Engineering, available to students beginning this spring – provide accelerated pathways built on foundational courses. And students with liberal arts and sciences degrees – who’ve studied a diverse array of subjects, collected technical and practical knowledge, and learned to speak and write well – are prepared to navigate them.
The Mason partnership allows qualified students to begin taking graduate-level courses – in applied information technology, computer science, data analytics engineering, operations research, statistics and systems engineering – during their senior year at Mary Washington. Participants can earn up to nine credits that count toward both their UMW bachelor’s degree and potentially later a master’s degree in engineering at Mason.
The Virginia Tech agreement, shared with four other schools in the Commonwealth, is part of the state’s Tech Talent Investment Program to fill a critical workforce need in Virginia. UMW students can apply for early admission to the master of engineering program in computer science and applications as early as spring of their junior year. Participants can take up to six credits from an approved set of Mary Washington courses to be applied beyond the 120 credit hours required for a bachelor’s and toward a master’s in engineering at Virginia Tech.
Engineers, who use principles of science and math to create links between scientific discoveries and practical and commercial applications, are in demand all around UMW – at nearby military bases, in Northern Virginia’s technology corridor, and at Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington.
Daniels, a computer science and Spanish double-major, and Rafter, a physics major with minors in computer science and math, cite interest in the engineering field and the prospect of shaving time off the process of earning a master’s degree as motivators for pursuing the pathways. But the programs are open to anyone whose coursework complements the curriculum, even a piano performance major, VSE Associate Chair of Systems Engineering and Operations Research Andrew Loerch pointed out during an information session for UMW students last week.
The pathways are critical for physics students – and University of Mary Washington undergraduates across disciplines – said Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija. “The opportunity of being accepted into a graduate-level program offering a degree in such a high-demand field is extremely valuable.”