Community shows support for local engineering students
Alumni, students and faculty from the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering rallied to defend its position at UNLV as it faces losing five programs at the call of budget cuts.
Five departments from the college have been listed as accounting for 25 percent of the most expensive programs on campus.
Civil and environmental engineering, electrical & computer engineering, mechanical engineering, the school of computer science, and the school of informatics may be taken out of the catalog completely.
Amy Nakatani, a senior in computer science, said the upkeep and licensing for software costs the university a lot of money but that it is worth it.
“When you just look at the surface, computer science is a lot more expensive than other programs,” Nakatani said. “But as a college we give back a lot. If they do cut it they’re not really going to get out ahead.”
“We have several different professors in the computer science department who are constantly publishing papers and articles. They’re always looking for students who are willing to work and get grants,” Nakatani said.
The five programs are home to 1,700 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, said engineering communications and special events director Christine Wallace.
Nakatani was considering attending UNLV for graduate school but pointed out that soon that choice might not exist.
With close to 300 people in attendance for the rally and a number of speakers, Wallace said she was happy with the turnout.
“The [attendees] were everyday students working very hard for their degree,” Wallace said.
“We had all the community together,” said civil engineering junior Ankush Sehdev. “It was great to see everyone together to come support us.”
Shirts sold at the rally featured a list of things people couldn’t do without the help of engineers: “You can’t drive to work… toast the toast, or brew the coffee.”
“You can’t do anything on a computer without the knowledge of computer scientists,” Nakatani said. “We may not have developed Microsoft at UNLV but we are still producing graduates who are going on to do better things.”
Nakatani explained that Las Vegas is a great place for computer scientists because of the high demand for slot machine technology. If the program is cut, many businesses will have to look out of state to get qualified engineers, Nakatani said.
“If you look at the industry here in Las Vegas, mostly it is civil engineering and construction,” Sedhev said. He said that the transportation and building development in the city all rely on engineers.
“That’s why it’s really important to keep us,” Sedhev said. “We’d rather keep our graduates here and give back to the community.”
The proposal has stirred up the engineering community, Wallace said, but the programs have also seen increasing support from organizations throughout the city.
Organizations like the Southwest Gas Corporation, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nevada Society of Prefssional Engineers, American Public Works Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers have submitted letters of support to university presidents, Nevada System of Higher Education regents and Governor Jim Gibbons.
“We’ve been working for 18 months on changes we should make in the college,” Wallace said. “We’re developing our students in areas of research and leadership. We’ve made a lot of headway in the last 5 years and we want to keep that momentum going.”
Sehdev explained that many students are scared about the effect these cuts could have on their futures.
“I had students come up to me that are really afraid. Their main question is ‘is the college going away?’” Sedhev said, adding that it would be difficult for students to transfer to different schools with different requirements. Students may have to start all over again, he said. “If this goes to waste, then there’s basically no point.”