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Creation of a Structural Engineering Professional Master's Degree Program

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Methods, Techniques, and New Programs in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.360.1 - 25.360.14



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Paper Authors


Jennifer H. Gross Lehigh University

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Jennifer Gross is a professor of practice and Director of the Master's of Engineering in Structural Engineering program at Lehigh University. She earned her B.S. in civil engineering at Lehigh University and M.S. in structural engineering at University of Texas, Austin. She is a licensed Professional Engineer, with many years of experience in structural engineering of building systems.

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Donna M. Mohr Lehigh University

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Donna Mohr is the Director of Graduate Recruiting and Program Development for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. In 1999, she earned a B.S. in chemistry from Drexel University. She pursued her graduate studies at Michigan State University, earning an M.S. in forensic science (2002) and a Ph.D. in chemistry (2003). She completed her postdoctoral work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit before joining the faculty of Cedar Crest College as an Assistant Professor in chemistry. In her current position, she works with engineering faculty and industry to develop new market-sensitive professional master’s degree programs. She has developed programs in structural engineering, energy systems engineering, healthcare systems engineering, and technical entrepreneurship.

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Stephen Pessiki Lehigh University

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Stephen Pessiki is a Professor of Structural Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Lehigh University. His teaching and research interests include the nondestructive evaluation of materials and structures, fire effects on structures, and earthquake engineering.

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Creation of a Structural Engineering Professional Master’s Degree ProgramDue to the complexity of contemporary practice, top-tier structural engineering firms hold themaster’s degree as the minimum level of education for new hires. In addition, the AmericanSociety of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends a master’s degree or the equivalent of 30 creditsbeyond a bachelor’s degree as part of the minimum body of knowledge for licensed professionalengineers. Finally, students whose end goal is a career in professional practice have indicated apreference for graduate programs focused on professional practice. These needs provided theperfect opportunity for the creation of a new professional master’s program in structuralengineering.Assessments were conducted to determine the viability of the proposed program with respect toindustry and students. Engineering firms were surveyed to provide feedback on the proposedprogram elements as well as to gage the potential job market for graduates. Undergraduatestudents were surveyed to determine interest in the program, and to gather student feedback onkey program elements. Goals of the program and key features were refined per the assessmentresults.The program, which began in the summer of 2008, is led by a full-time professor of practice withindustry design experience and guided by an executive advisory board, composed ofrepresentatives from all areas of structural engineering.The key feature of the 30-credit 10-month program is a 9-credit, 3-course design projectsequence in which the student teams design a real-world structure from initial conception to finalconstruction documents. An individual project assignment, as well as technical electives allowsstudents to tailor the program to their individual interests and career goals. A laboratory classprovides hands-on learning of structural behavior. Interaction with industry leaders throughseminars, field trips, and externships allows students to network with professionals and gain anunderstanding of their chosen industry.Recruitment of students is from four different categories: current domestic undergraduate civilengineering students, practicing engineers, international students, and “non-traditional students”with undergraduate degrees in fields outside of civil engineering.This paper discusses the creation and execution of the structural engineering professionalmaster’s program, including market research, goals and features, and student recruitment. Initialassessment results from graduates, employers, and advisors evaluating the effectiveness of theprogram at preparing students for professional practice are presented.

Gross, J. H., & Mohr, D. M., & Pessiki, S. (2012, June), Creation of a Structural Engineering Professional Master's Degree Program Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21118

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