New program bridges gap between engineering, business

By By Julie Jay and By Julie Jay

By Julie Jay

The U civil and environmental engineering department and industry sponsors have created a new program to bring business techniques into the engineering classroom.

The new engineering program management track will offer students four courses related to engineering law and project management.

Senior undergraduate and graduate students taking these classes will be exposed to the business aspect of building and managing large engineering projects.

Paul Tikalsky, chairman of civil and environmental engineering, said the “major advantage of creating a program like this is to get the business end of construction and civil engineering into the classroom with the students.”

Tikalsky said these courses will cover concepts that are not typically taught to engineering students but are vital for managing a successful construction or engineering business.

An endowment for the courses is currently being created as well.

Two large Utah construction and civil engineering companies have already contributed. The Meldrum Company has donated $100,000; W.W. Clyde and Co. has donated $50,000 and intends to contribute an additional $50,000 within the next year.

Each endowment will allow the department to host a senior practitioner from the construction industry as a course instructor.

Students taking this semester’s engineering law course are spending class discussing the intricacies of construction contracts and professional liability with Craig Coburn, a practicing attorney.

Dave Johnson, a senior in civil engineering, said “(Coburn) is very knowledgeable because he has worked in the private sector for 26 years.”

The new course “is interesting because it provides a stark contrast to the technical number/equation-based classes I usually take,” Johnson said.

He also said he enjoys the opportunity the new curriculum provides to “learning how engineering fits into the private world and the risks associated with being a practicing engineer.”

Ben Hunter, a senior in civil engineering, said the management curriculum is a “great way of preparing us for what may be out there.”

Studying engineering law is especially important for the engineering profession because “the safety of everyone in the community is affected by things we design,” Hunter said. “I think extra precautionary measures need to be taken by engineer professionals to protect themselves, and indirectly, protect other people, especially with legalities.”

The new engineering law class provides this opportunity, unlike the usual technical theory-based coursework, Hunter said.

The department is looking to complete the endowment for two of the four classes in the new program.