Focus on STEM

Q&A with College of Science & Engineering Dean Michael Quinn

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Kalinko
July 9, 2014

The College of Science and Engineering, led by Dean Michael Quinn, is a rich learning community with a culture focused on experiential learning. It’s a welcoming environment for students who want to pursue majors in science, mathematics, engineering or computer science.

Here’s what Dean Quinn has to say about the college, its faculty and the increasing importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education over the next decade and beyond.

You say the College of Science and Engineering is the STEM college at Seattle University. Why is that important?

Because we have science and engineering departments in the same college, collaborations among disciplines are easier here than at universities where these departments are in different colleges. An example of this collaboration is the creation of our new laser spectroscopy user facility. Professors from science and engineering departments collaborated to attract a half million dollars of funding from the National Science Foundation and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to create this facility, which is giving our undergraduates the opportunity to build and use state-of-the-art instruments that would ordinarily be reserved for graduate students.

How has the interest in STEM impacted enrollment?

The college has seen an increase in undergraduate enrollment of 231 students, or 29 percent, in the past four years. Our faculty members are engaged in exciting research projects that are relevant to the mission of Seattle University and attractive to undergraduate students. Many of our students are publishing with their faculty mentors in top journals, which gives them an extra advantage when applying to top-tier PhD programs.

How has the Project Center set engineering and computer science students up for success?  

We run one of the oldest and strongest Project Centers in the country. It’s a great experiential learning opportunity for students in engineering, computer science and business. They learn what it’s like to tackle a real problem for real company where they can’t look up the answer in the back of a book. Many students do go on to work for the sponsors of their projects.

The College of Science and Engineering is also notable for the high number of women faculty.

Forty percent of our full-time faculty are women, which is an unusually high percentage for a science and engineering college. More than a third of the engineering faculty are women, which gives us one of the best ratios in the nation. The presence of these faculty members means our female students have plenty of role models and mentors.

What’s your prediction for the college 10 years from now?

We’re going to have another 250 undergraduate majors and the number of graduate students will increase dramatically, from around 50 to around 250 students. Our educational innovations will be more widely recognized and we’ll be the first choice of more high school and transfer students. We are committed to providing our students with great extracurricular experiences in addition to fantastic lectures and labs. This is how they develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and leadership. We continue to strengthen connections with major employers in the Puget Sound area. Ten years from now we will be sending many more of our students out to these employers for internships and these employers will be sending far more of their employees to SU to take courses or earn certificates or master’s degrees.

40 percent
Full-time faculty members in science and engineering are women, one of the highest percentages nationally.

Grant received from the Luce Foundation to encourage more women to major in STEM fields.

Unfulfilled jobs in Washington

80 percent
Are in STEM and Health Sciences

Anticipated unfulfilled jobs in the state by 2017
(Source: “Great Jobs without Our Reach,” Washington Roundtable, March 2013)

Dean Quinn Dean Michael Quinn of Science and Engineering shares many exciting changes in the future for the college.