McLennan Community College is adding new degrees in business and engineering as the college explores creating new academic programs to attract more students from throughout Central Texas.

Beginning this fall, the college is adding six new engineering degrees in biomedical, chemical, industrial, civil, mechanical and industrial engineering. It now offers only a broader-based associate’s of science in engineering degree.

In addition, the business department will begin offering an associate’s degree in operations management aimed at preparing workers for supervisory roles with manufacturing companies.

The degree will cover principles in economics, accounting, leadership, human resource management and purchasing.

The new engineering offerings are in response to increased student interest in the field.

Associate Mathematics Professor April Andreas said engineering enrollment has grown from 60 students when it started four years ago to around 200 in the spring 2013 semester.

Andreas said the state only recently has allowed community colleges to offer specialized courses like surveying or digital systems. Now, MCC is able to offer courses that would best suit students’ engineering interests.

Andreas said developing the new degrees also makes studying engineering more accessible to local students. For example, many of her male students enrolled in the program after putting their wives through MCC’s nursing program, and their families plan to stay in the area.

“They have to stay in Waco, so to do engineering they do the first two years here, and then I have some guys who are driving to College Station or Arlington or Austin two days a week to take classes,” Andreas said. “I think this is giving people an opportunity to pursue engineering that otherwise it might have been out of their reach.”

MCC also is offering a one-year certificate in engineering essentials that covers some of the basic courses needed for an engineering associate’s degree, while Tarleton State University will add a new bachelor’s degree in engineering at MCC through its University Center. Andreas said that creates a continuum for students to progress toward their educational goals.

Andreas and an adjunct faculty member teach the engineering courses, but she said MCC may take on more adjunct instructors with engineering experience to teach new courses as interest grows.

The new operations management business degree will help train and educate a workforce to take on management responsibilities in local manufacturing companies.

Ron Epps, dean of MCC’s workforce education department, said the college decided to add the degree based on feedback from a survey last fall of local companies like Mars and Coca-Cola. Most of the companies said they want to see workers with greater critical thinking.

“The best type of (prospective student) is probably someone that’s been on the line or the actual manufacturing side and decided, ‘I want to move up, I want to do more,’ ”
Epps said.

“Now let’s go to the next step and look at the leadership and critical thinking and quality management. All that goes along with it.”

The degree also will include a course on Lean Six Sigma, a business concept that emphasizes efficiency in business operations. Workers trained in the concept would prove useful to business searching for ways to save costs, streamline production and boost quality output,
Epps said.

He said the program potentially could help recruit new companies to Waco if employers think the degree would produce a significant number of graduates who could fill essential manager roles.

Strategic plan

MCC is drafting a new strategic plan to attract more out-of-district students and boost the college’s tuition revenue. Implementing new academic programs is one of the goals of the plan, which is to be submitted to MCC’s board of trustees in September for consideration.

“That’s what these programs are for, so that we can do everything we can to meet the needs of the community,” Epps said.

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