NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A new four-year engineering degree program to be offered by Stephen F. Austin State University's College of Sciences and Mathematics was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Thursday.

Beginning this fall, students will be able to pursue a bachelor's degree in engineering physics with an emphasis in mechanical or electrical engineering at SFA. Graduates will be prepared to enter such diverse areas as mechanical controls, digital and analog electronics, instrumentation, robotics, and manufacturing process control.

"With opportunities for a student to major in any of the sciences, technology (computer science) and/or mathematics, the SFA College of Sciences and Mathematics now adds to that list the opportunity for a student to major in engineering. Thus, SFA now offers degree opportunities in all of the STEM disciplines," said Dr. Kimberly Childs, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

"The educational objective at SFA is to address the needs of students as they prepare for diverse careers in the workforce," she said. "For those students who have an interest in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics and who are seeking innovative careers in high-tech areas where multiple engineering disciplines merge, this new engineering program is designed for them."

For decades, students in the pre-engineering program have expressed interest in remaining at SFA to complete their engineering degree, said Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president.

"We are pleased to now have a program in place that will allow us to keep our pre-engineering students here at SFA to complete their four-year engineering degree," he said. "This is something we have worked toward for many years, and we are excited about the opportunity it provides us to recruit and retain more STEM majors for the university."

Local business and industry representatives have long expressed the need for such a program at SFA, as well.

"I am excited about the possibility of a local option for engineering education," said Chad Robertson, president of the Piney Woods Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. "Currently, it can be a challenge to recruit and retain engineering graduates in the relatively rural East Texas area when many of the candidates are from and are accustomed to large metropolitan locations. I think SFA offering this degree program will have a positive impact on local industry. Engineering and technical professionals are in high demand."

Scott Thompson, manufacturing engineering manager for Lockheed Martin in Lufkin, agreed, saying the availability of a four-year engineering degree will benefit the region's economy.

"Engineers are generally the driving force behind innovations and improved productivity in industries," he said. "The need for engineers is increasing in all industries as the complexity of computer and automation technology rises. Having a local source for engineering graduates or being able to send existing employees to improve their education would be an improvement over our current situation."

The new program will be housed in SFA's Department of Physics and Astronomy, chaired by Dr. Harry Downing. Dr. Dan Bruton will continue to serve as the department's engineering adviser. A new electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer will be added to the department's faculty soon, and this fall, six new engineering courses will be added to those currently taught at SFA. The department will seek accreditation for the new degree from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

"The new engineering degree is the result of years of work by our faculty in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, and we are pleased to have reached the point where we can begin accepting students into this exciting program," said Dr. Richard Berry, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs. "With the decades-long success of the university's pre-engineering program, the college is extremely well prepared to offer a degree program of the highest quality beginning in the very first semester of its offering."

The new engineering degree further solidifies the university's commitment to STEM education to help meet a critical need in Texas and the nation to prepare more college graduates in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Childs said.

"A vibrant STEM workforce is vital to America's innovative capacity and global competiveness. As America launches a national campaign to widen the STEM pipeline, institutions of higher education must find ways to recruit, retain and graduate STEM majors who are academically prepared to enter STEM careers. Stephen F. Austin State University is leading this charge across the East Texas region."

For more information about SFA's new engineering program, visit