New Engineering Majors Emerging

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New Engineering Majors Emerging

Franciscan University now offers software engineering and mechanical engineering programs.

Autumn 2021 | Sarah Ambrosio

In This Article

What can we do here at Franciscan that we can’t do anywhere else?”

This was the starting question for Dr. Derek Doroski, Dr. David Dombrowski, Dr. Justin Greenly, and other Franciscan University engineering faculty as they discussed a projected 11 percent annual increase in demand for software engineers and cyberanalysts.

Since 2013, the University had offered 2+2 and 3+2 Engineering Programs, forming students in the liberal arts and a foundational engineering curriculum before sending them to one of several partner schools to complete their graduation requirements.

About 50 Franciscan students have enjoyed that option and are currently finishing their engineering training at those other universities or have already graduated. But it wasn’t unusual for half of Franciscan’s engineering students to switch to another major rather than abandon Franciscan’s campus culture and rigorous academics for another school.

That, along with the increasing number of engineering jobs and feedback from the Admissions Office on how many prospective students desired four-year engineering programs on campus, persuaded Doroski and his colleagues to develop full engineering curriculums supported exclusively on campus in addition to the partner school programs. The first, a Software Engineering Program, began in fall 2021 and offers a minor in cybersecurity—with that Franciscan difference.

“We provide a faith component that secular universities can’t match while having an academic profile similar to a large state school,” says Doroski, who serves as director of Franciscan’s Engineering Program. “In addition, for many engineering schools, the focus of the professor is research, while teaching is seen as an inconvenient necessity. Here, we care about providing instruction at a high level of excellence.”

The program’s first software engineering students will enjoy an incredible lineup of professors who came to Franciscan’s Engineering Program from prestigious universities, including Professor James Wessel from Carnegie Mellon University and Deacon Dr. Steve Frezza, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and 20-plus years of teaching computer and software engineering at Gannon University.

Doroski also says there’s “growing excitement” over the new course on Catholicism, Science, and Technology, which students can take every year to learn about topics such as the Catholic contribution to stem cell research, Galileo, questions like “Can Science Study God?” (Yes, it can.), miracles such as the Shroud of Turin, scientific evidence for the Materiality of the Soul, and the Church’s contribution to the sciences.

“Other unique classes such as Ethics in Cyberspace, along with our Catholic core curriculum and technical classes, will equip our students to be strong Catholics in the software engineering and cybersecurity field,” Doroski says. “Moreover, the program’s emphasis on high ethical standards will allow students to pass required security clearances and be trusted by their employers with handling sensitive information.”

Doroski adds, “Our professors work closely with students to provide advice and help secure internships as early as the summer of their freshman year.”

He says Wessel, who has worked to place Franciscan students in internships over the last five years, is also developing internship opportunities for software engineering students.

The second new program, a mechanical engineering major, may launch as early as fall 2022.

Students will be trained in Franciscan’s mechanical engineering lab, which is outfitted with state-of-the-art 3D printers, laser cutters, and other necessary machinery. They will be able to implement and increase their design skills while receiving practical instruction.

Mechanical engineering students will be able to further expand their knowledge through business or management concentrations, as well as an MBA track. Completing the program at a devoutly Catholic university will indicate to future employers that Franciscan mechanical engineers will combine integrity, outstanding work ethic, and strong social skills with excellent scientific proficiency.

As with the software engineering graduates, most alumni will be employed with high starting salaries even before graduating due to the high demand.

“My fellow professors and I are personally invested in each student’s success,” Doroski says. “We take seriously our calling to train the next generation of software engineers and mechanical engineers, and we look forward to watching them navigate the world of engineering with believers’ hearts and promote positive cultural change their fields.”


Sarah (Kalb ’12) Ambrosio is an actress living in Southern California.

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