by Jane Stoyle Welch
Published November 17, 2021
A curriculum that is aligned with the employment market, a wide range of professional development opportunities, and a growing number of diversity and related support programs are just a few of the reasons that the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has become a destination for students seeking graduate degrees.
This fall, the school welcomed its largest overall and new incoming entry class of graduate students in its history. Over 2,620 students are enrolled in graduate programs in the school, which is a 21% increase over pre-pandemic enrollment levels in the Fall of 2019.
The incoming class of 1,366 graduate students is both multicultural and diverse, hailing from 44 countries, including Bangladesh, Canada, China, India, Iran, Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey, Taiwan, Venezuela and the United States, among others. Domestic students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds also increased 21% over pre-pandemic enrollment, including a 33% increase in enrollment of African American students. The school’s overall enrollment also achieved new records for both domestic and international students.
The soaring numbers are a testament to not only robust student interest in the University at Buffalo as a destination for both domestic and international students, but also the collective efforts of the school’s faculty, staff, current students, industry partners and alumni who help to recruit and enroll a diverse pool of students.
“Our focus is on aligning our academic programs with the job markets and career readiness programs, all while working to improve diversity and accessibility,” says Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We are continually innovating and improving our program offerings to ensure that we are providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the workforce.”
In addition to offering graduate degree programs in all major areas of engineering, the school has recently expanded its offerings to include a wide range of interdisciplinary programs that go beyond traditional department divides. These include:
Advanced certificates are also available in a wide range of areas, including Advanced Manufacturing, Bridge Engineering (offered online and in person), Cybersecurity, and Occupational Safety and Health.
Another critical area of emphasis has been the addition of several innovative individualized potential-based admissions review principles. This includes adoption of the Mastermind Europe philosophy, which provides guidance for determining which students are suitable for which master’s programs.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic, together with events around the world and in our country, have forced higher education institutions to be more accessible. Our collective emphasis is grounded in relationship building, continuous improvement and asking how we can better service the needs of our current and prospective students,” said Christopher Connor, assistant dean and chief enrollment officer for graduate education.
This approach is consistent with the school’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) initiative. Built upon a solid foundation of previous work to create an inclusive and diverse community that has been recognized nationally by the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program (ADRP), the school includes both academic preparation and other non-cognitive markers for potential success in graduate school.
“The Office of STEM Diversity Programs offers a number of programs for graduate students, including support groups for Women of Color (STEMinism) and Men of Color in STEM, and a Leadership Development Fellowship. We are continually building on our previous work to create an inclusive and diverse community in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” says Letitia Thomas, assistant dean for diversity
To support the career aspirations of the graduate students, the school is continuing to expand its cost-free career readiness SEAS 360 Professional Development program with the addition of new micro-credentials in Leadership, Professionalism and Communication, and Diversity and Inclusion.
The programs have been developed in partnership with the school’s alumni, Engineering Partners, advisory board members and the business community.
“The SEAS Professional Development program provides a great networking opportunity for employers, alumni and students to connect and create relationships for potential future employment,” says Nathan Bolt, a civil engineering alumnus and member of the SEAS Dean’s Advisory Council who is a project engineer at Turner Construction Company.
Students also benefit from access to EMSI Career Coach, an online resource that offers personalized assessments, career development, and job search tools. The EMSI Analyst tool provides insight into current labor market data, information on companies, position locations, compensation, and real-time job postings, as well as areas of current skills gaps between what employers are looking for and what is currently lacking in the workforce.
“We continue to work towards enhancing the transparency of our actual student outcomes and further improve linkages between our academic program curriculum and the skills desired by employers,” added Connor.