Online master’s program to pay for Clemson University building expansion
CLEMSON — Clemson University will soon begin expanding a building to make room for rapid growth in the industrial engineering department and will pay for the addition in a way that minimizes the impact on taxpayers and most of the student body.
Freeman Hall’s addition will include new offices, conference rooms and a 108-seat auditorium. The $10-million project is expected to help attract top talent, while creating room for new faculty and staff as the department expands.
President James P. Clements joined other university officials and supporters on Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony.
The three-story project will add 21,000 square feet onto Freeman Hall and begins less than a month after the university broke ground on a separate building, the 70,000-square-foot Watt Family Innovation Center.
The expansion helps make room for a fast-growing online master’s program that has been supported by Fluor Corporation. The program offers a Master of Engineering in industrial engineering with an emphasis on supply chain and logistics.
“Clemson is now serving a global market for high-quality, online education in industrial engineering,” Clements said. “Demand is high, and this expansion will help us meet that demand.
“Facilities are a top priority for Clemson, and this is our second academic facility improvement project to begin this semester.”
The university is putting up the money for the addition, and the industrial engineering department expects to pay it back with proceeds from the online master’s program. The program now has about 120 students and is expected to grow to 160.
Industrial engineers design systems that deliver products and services efficiently and effectively. Graduates with industrial engineering degrees are in high demand in a wide variety of businesses, ranging from banking, health care, construction and tourism to the traditional areas of production, warehousing and distribution.
Clemson researchers, for example, have helped develop safety checklists for hospitals and computer models that analyze the flow of goods that keeps store shelves stocked.
The number of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students who were enrolled in industrial engineering grew nearly 55 percent in five years, going from 251 in 2009 to 388 in 2013.
“It’s one of the top-growth career fields,” said Scott Mason, interim chairman of the industrial engineering department. “Companies are after our students.The popularity is just growing.”
Freeman Hall construction is expected to last about 15 months and will be completed in time for the 2015 fall semester.
A two-story section closest to Fernow Street will be demolished to make room for the addition. Renovation would not have been cost-effective for the 88-year-old building, university officials said.
“This world-class facility will allow us to attract top-notch students and faculty and provide unique and enriching engagement experiences to the the next generation of engineers in supply chain, logistics and human-machine systems,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science.
The funding method came about during the last recession when university budgets were tight. Gramopadhye, who then was industrial engineering chairman, worked out the details with Brett Dalton, Clemson’s vice president for finance and operations.
“It’s unique in a university setting for an individual program to generate the resources required to fund its facility expansion,” Dalton said.
Growth in the industrial engineering department also underscores the power of philanthropy and the importance of Clemson’s long partnership with Fluor.
The company’s $2 million contribution in 2007 was matched by $2 million from the South Carolina Smart State fund to establish a Center of Economic Excellence. The money included funding for the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain Optimization and Logistics, which has been held by Mason since its inception.
The Fluor-Clemson partnership also led to creation of the online Master of Engineering program.
“It is important for the curriculum to grow internationally as supply chains become increasingly global and more tightly coupled,” Mason said. “Course content needs to be updated, and the program’s visibility around the globe ought to be heightened.”
India has been included in the program and other regions are to follow.
“Fluor is truly committed to this program for its academic importance to the engineering discipline as well as for its investment for the future,” said Fluor’s Ken Smith, senior vice president, Business Development.
“Expanding our global supply chain and logistics capabilities prepares students and companies to better compete in global construction and project management — critically important to the engineering and construction industry and to Fluor.”
More than 70 companies have sent students to the three-year program since it started six years ago, Mason said. A team of Clemson professors recently went to India to reach out to the experts who will help craft new content that will be specific to the region.
“Partnering with colleagues who live and work in a region is a very effective way to ensure accurate information is conveyed to the students,” Mason said.
Jim Scotti, who recently retired as Fluor’s senior vice president and chief procurement officer, championed the development of the master’s program since the beginning of the endowment process and plans to remain connected to the program in an advisory capacity.
“The capital project supply chain master’s program is something very close to my heart,” Scotti said. “I never would have dreamed it would grow to something like this today. It’s turned out to be one of the highlights of my career.”
Freeman Hall was completed in 1926 and renovated in 1965. It was named for Edwin J. Freeman, who was head of the industrial engineering department from its founding until 1958.
The industrial engineering department emphasizes education, research, discovery and application of knowledge in supply chain optimization and logistics, human factors, and education and learning systems.
Freeman Hall also houses Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), which supports females in engineering and science majors. It is also home to Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER), which is a package of programs that serve student groups underrepresented in math, science and engineering.
Faculty members will move their offices to the new addition when complete. Having them all in the same area is expected to encourage better communication and collaboration.
Some of their old offices, which now are scattered throughout Freeman Hall, will be converted to labs. The addition’s third floor will house graduate offices and common areas.
“As we have the growth in faculty and students, it requires space,” Mason said. “The addition is all about keeping up with growth that’s going on in the industrial engineering program.”
The project’s general contractor is M.B. Kahn Construction Co., and the architectural-and-engineering firm is Lord Aeck Sargent.