CHEYENNE — If the University of Wyoming's engineering school is to be ranked among the top 50 in the nation as state and legislative leaders envision, it will require investing an additional $14.7 million a year in the program, according to a UW report.
The College of Engineering and Applied Science already operates on a $16 million a year budget, meaning a total budget of around $31 million a year will be required for the school.
Achieving the higher national academic status means adding 25 to 30 new faculty positions, improving facilities, adding 100 new graduate fellowships, attracting the best and brightest students and focusing research on certain niche areas that buttress Wyoming's minerals industry, according to the UW report. The state Legislature has already set aside $95 million just to renovate and improve the UW engineering facilities.
"From the beginning I have said that while facility improvements are essential, this effort should be focused on what happens inside the building," Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement.
The UW report is in response to a strategy laid out last December by a governor's task force to create a nationally recognized engineering program at the state's only four-year, public university that would benefit Wyoming and UW students. The initiative started with the 2012 Legislature when it approved money to improve the UW school's facilities.
Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who co-chaired the task force appointed by Mead, said the task force report and UW's response shows "that if you're serious about excellence and having areas in which you're going to really excel it means that you're going to have to make an investment."
"This isn't a cost-free endeavor," Freudenthal said.
The UW report notes the University of Utah has been successful in a similar endeavor to improve its engineering college. Utah began its initiative about 12 years ago and its school is now ranked 51st in the nation in rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. The UW school is ranked 132nd among engineering schools.
Wyoming's goal is to get the UW school into the top 50 but not to challenge the nation's top 10 college programs, which have established excellence in all facets of engineering disciplines.
"You need to play to your long suit and our long suit is probably natural resources," Freudenthal said. "And there's no point in us trying to be Stanford or Yale or somebody. We just need to play to our long suit."
Success of the initiative will be measured by such things as how much more research money is awarded to the university and its faculty and how many more high-quality Ph.D. graduates the UW school produces.
Bob Sternberg, who is taking over as president of UW on July 1, said in an email from Germany, where he is on a personal visit, that the initiative is a "wonderful endeavor, which I believe is exactly on target for our goal to align as closely as possible the goals of the university and the state."