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Polytechnic campus evolves as a polytechnic campus


June 24, 2005

When Williams Air Force Base closed in 1993, ASU administrators and local community leaders saw the closure as an opportunity to have an ASU presence in the growing far East Valley.

The Polytechnic campus started as a small ASU campus in 1996, with nearly 1,000 students. At the time, the new campus allowed for growth in programs that lacked room to grow on the Tempe campus and helped to accommodate the overall growth in the ASU population.

Initially, the southeast Mesa campus offered a handful of programs, housed in either the College of Technology and Innovation or the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness. Later, School of Applied Arts & Sciences was formed to develop the liberal arts and sciences curriculum and act as an incubator for new professional programs.

And the evolution of the campus continues.

Today, the 29 professional and technical programs that have moved and those that have since been created caused the campus to grow to more than 4,000 students. It's expected that the campus will continue to grow to 15,000 students by 2020.

In 2003, ASU President Crow identified a mission for the Polytechnic campus – to offer a polytechnic education, similar to Cal Poly or Virginia Tech.

In the United States, there are more than 80 polytechnic institutions, located in about 28 states. They have been around for nearly 200 years in the United States, with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute being the oldest and the first university to offer engineering degrees. The term is used to describe schools in which many branches of the arts and sciences are taught with special reference to their practical applications.

According to the campus Provost Gerald Jakubowski, a polytechnic education is an experiential learning environment that provides a solid foundation in the arts and sciences, combined with the practical application of knowledge, which is perfect for students who have a hands-on preference for learning.

"As the Phoenix metropolitan area grows and higher education needs change, the university has to evolve and meet the needs of business and the communities we serve," Jakubowski says. "Our focus will be on a polytechnic education, meaning an applied approach to professional and technical programs that we offer, as well as future programs."

The polytechnic curriculum weaves science and technology throughout the professional and technical programs, so even someone majoring in education has a broad understanding of science and technology.

"One of our strengths is that we have and will continue to develop curricula in conjunction with advisory committees made up of experts from the public and private sectors," Jakubowski says. "This partnership ensures ASU provides students with the practical knowledge they need to be effective in the work force immediately following graduation."

Currently, the undergraduate and graduate programs focus on agribusiness and business administration, computing studies, education, engineering technologies, golf management, graphic and Web information management, health and wellness, nutrition, pre-veterinary medicine, professional pilots training, and multimedia writing.

A new program being added this fall is a multidisciplinary engineering program that incorporates all engineering specialties into one broad-based program, and ASU's Polytechnic campus will be one of a handful of universities in the United States that is providing this innovative pedagogical approach.

"The new program complements the polytechnic vision for this campus and offers a different type of engineering program at ASU in the East Valley," Jakubowski says.

Students in the program will work in design studios rather than in lecture halls. They will learn by doing hands-on projects that require knowledge of several engineering disciplines, as well as a solid base in math and science.

"The applied approach used in this program is the essence of the polytechnic campus," Jakubowski says. "With assistance from industry partners, we are able to offer quality programs that prepare students for leadership in their personal, professional and public lives."

In addition to the new program, the name will change to the Polytechnic campus, effective July 1.