Volgenau School of Engineering Moves Forward With New Name

Posted: February 14, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: February 12, 2011 at 11:59 am

By Catherine Ferraro

The Long and Kimmy Nyugen Engineering Building. Photo by Lori A. Wilson

Mason’s Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering has undergone significant growth in stature, enrollment and infrastructure since it opened its doors in 1985.

Taking the next step toward becoming one of the leading academic and research institutions in the country, the school has officially been renamed the Volgenau School of Engineering.

According to Dean Lloyd Griffiths, the new name represents the school’s growth beyond information technology and will open doors for even more opportunities in the future.

“The Volgenau School of Engineering is supportive of all engineering disciplines, including information technology. The new name represents a more concise and mainstream engineering school,” says Griffiths.

“As we consider the future of the school and the direction in which it is heading, we are very focused on creating a high-end, research-oriented engineering school. The new name of the school is simply the next step along the way.”

More Room to Grow

According to Griffiths, the new name does not imply any changes to the existing academic departments within the school. In addition, he notes that the school’s overall goal remains the same — to create successful graduates whose own companies contribute to economic growth in the Washington, D.C., region.

One of the most important areas on which the school plans to focus is the field of bioengineering, one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Last fall, the school formally established an undergraduate bioengineering program, which is the first of its kind in Northern Virginia.

Lloyd Griffiths, dean of the Volgenau School of Engineering.

Since the program began, students and faculty have been hard at work applying the tools of engineering to solve problems in biology and medicine. As the program increases in popularity and importance, Griffiths has plans to expand the program by hiring even more qualified faculty members and establishing both master’s and doctoral programs in bioengineering in the near future.

“The field of bioengineering is growing at a rapid pace, and I am very pleased that students and faculty in the Volgenau School of Engineering are able to contribute to the cutting-edge research that is taking place in the field,” says Griffiths. “We are very excited about the future of bioengineering and the opportunities it will bring.”

In addition to bioengineering, Griffiths has his sights set on another growing field: mechanical engineering. While traditional mechanical engineering programs focus on machinery, Griffiths would like to create a program at Mason that uses the most advanced technology currently available, such as nanotechnology, to help solve real-world problems.

Other areas within the school in which Griffiths expects to see more growth include civil and environmental engineering and information security. He notes that issues related to these areas are becoming increasingly important in society, and the need to train qualified professionals in these fields has never been greater.

Building on Its Successes

Although the future of the Volgenau School of Engineering is wide open, Griffiths looks back to many of the school’s successes and accomplishments that have paved the way and are a source of great pride.

For example, the school was the first in the nation to offer a doctorate in information technology. Since then, the school has created other doctoral programs in civil and infrastructure engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, statistical science and systems engineering and operations research.

In addition, faculty research has increased across every discipline in the school. In fact, Griffiths notes that annual research expenditures within the school exceed $20 million. Also, students are becoming more involved in research opportunities and work in many of the labs throughout the school.

When the school opened the doors of the new Long and Kimmy Nguyen Engineering Building in 2009, it was the first LEED-certified green building on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. The building was named for Northern Virginia businessman Long Nguyen and his wife, Kimmy, in appreciation of a $5 million gift they gave to the university.

The building offers 180,000 square feet of classroom and research space, as well as office space available for commercial lease. The school maintains a close relationship with local companies, providing students and faculty members with unique opportunities to work with area companies and participate in leading research initiatives.

“The school has established a long tradition of ensuring that students receive an education that prepares them to become productive members of the workforce, while helping to meet the needs of employers in a wide range of fields,” says Griffiths.

“As we move forward, I am confident that we will continue to boost both student and faculty success and build a strong workforce.”

More information about the Volgenau School of Engineering can be found on the website.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu