Hill employees and future employees alike will no longer need to travel all the way to Salt Lake City or Logan to obtain an electronics engineering degree.
Beginning this fall, Weber State University's College of Applied Science and Technology will be offering a brand new Bachelor of Science degree in electronics engineering. The new degree will focus on the "design and integration of electronic components, circuits and systems," the WSU Web site says.
"It's an electronics program tailored to the aerospace industry, specifically Hill Air Force Base," said Dr. Bill Clapp, chairman of the Electronics Engineering program and Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology department at WSU and a retired Air Force Reserves colonel.
New and prospective degree seekers should note that the program is not yet accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET, and will not be eligible for accreditation until it has produced at least one graduate. The program "will comply with all requirements for ABET accreditation under the (Engineering Accreditation Commission) guidelines," the WSU Web site says. "WSU plans to seek accreditation as soon as there are graduates from the program."
"The accreditation process is expected to take two years," Clapp added.
For Hill's engineers, the Engineering Directorate believes that ABET-EAC accreditation is a must. "ABET-EAC ... has been the main focus of what we're interested in and what our requirements are for hiring into the engineering career field here at Hill," said Angie Tymofichuk, director of engineering for the Ogden Air Logistics Center's Engineering Directorate.
That shouldn't discourage prospective students from jumping into the academic world right away, though.
"The students who come through that program and graduate -- assuming the ABET-EAC accreditors say 'Yes, we agree with your curriculum, your instructors, all that' -- those graduates will have an ABET-EAC accredited degree," Tymofichuk added. This would also include graduates who complete the degree before accreditation occurs.
"The college has been through the accreditation process," said Dr. George New, division chief of the Engineering Directorate's Resources Division, in reference to WSU's current degree, Electronics Engineering Technology, which has been accredited by ABET through the Technology Accreditation Commission.
"We have confidence that ABET will ensure they have the right curriculum, professors, electives, things like that," he continued.
"And the qualifications of these graduates are such that they will fulfill our needs," Tymofichuk added.
Currently those employed at Hill who only have an ABET-TAC accredited degree -- as opposed to an ABET-EAC -- are ineligible for consideration for the highest level engineering positions. "(The new program) offers an opportunity for those 100 or so folks to get a local ABET-EAC degree," Tymofichuk said. "One of our biggest interests in that local offering is for our current employees."
Along with its electronics focus and proximity to base, the degree features two other characteristics that will make it more desirable to those already employed here at Hill: the ability to complete the degree as a part-time or full-time student and the degree's use of night classes.
"Education is equally important (as family and work), but it's the only one you can get away with (doing) part-time," Clapp said.
Clapp estimates that the new degree will take about four years to complete at a full-time pace, which is 16 to 18 credits per semester, and about seven years to complete at a part-time pace, which is eight to nine credits per semester.
However, most engineering degrees can take up to six years to complete at a full-time pace, Clapp warns. "Students often want to rush their degree," he said. "If you do not enjoy the journey, you will never get to the destination."
The investment may very well be worthwhile, as Tymofichuk foresees growth in the engineering field here at Hill.
"Obviously we have tremendous growth on the horizon in the EE field here at Hill," she said. "So we'll be looking for opportunities for qualified candidates to fill those positions but we also have a concern for our current employees."
Tymofichuk says that the base is expecting to see around 100 vacancies in engineering positions each year. "(There are) approximately 1,200 scientists and engineers here at Hill," she said. "So to add 100 more each year for the next few years is a substantial increase."
In the past, WSU's degree programs have also featured ways for both students and professors to get a taste of what it might be like to work here at Hill. Team Hill members often get a chance to be guest speakers and adjunct professors, while WSU professors have chances to visit and students participate in senior year projects that sometimes are funded by groups on base.
"We have a long history of doing senior projects for Hill Air Force Base," Clapp said. Oftentimes students will be able to gain cooperation with the base and the Utah Test and Training Range if necessary.
"We are very hands on," Clapp added.
With the availability of a local, specially tailored degree and an increase in job opportunities, the future sure is bright for Hill engineers.
To learn more about the WSU Electronics Engineering degree, please visit the College of Applied Science and Technology Web site at http://www.weber.edu/COAST or call the COAST academic advisor's office at (801) 626-7552 or call Dr. Bill Clapp at (801) 626-7097.
To learn about financial and other educational opportunities, please contact Hill's Education Office at (801) 777-2710 or stop by Building 383.