University of Mary’s New Hamm School of Engineering Programs Earn ABET Accreditation
BISMARCK, ND — The University of Mary’s new Hamm School of Engineering has quickly earned full accreditation for its Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering after launching the programs just seven years ago, in 2016. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) granted maximum certification to each of those degrees — retroactive from October of 2020.
ABET is an international, non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied and natural sciences, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.
“Accreditation is important because it says we meet the national standards and are up to par with every accredited engineering school in the world when it comes to earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil, Mechanical, or Electrical Engineering,” said Assistant Professor of Engineering Anthony Waldenmaier, a member of the accreditation task force within University of Mary’s Hamm School of Engineering.
Waldenmaier is one of the first three engineering faculty hired by the founding Dean of the School of Engineering, Dr. Terry Pilling, in 2016, along with Rodrigo da Costa Aparecido, and Eric Garcia. The four, with their own wealth of experience, immediately sought feedback from industry leaders and engineering firms asking them what they would like to see from a new engineering school, the only one in western North Dakota.
With input in hand, they began the very insightful, careful, and intentional planning process — beginning with the student-first faculty they hire, the minute details of how every inch of classroom and lab space are used together, to a comprehensive and very hands-on curriculum that begins with the student’s freshman-year experience and continues through their senior year.
The program philosophy emphasized at the Hamm School of Engineering is to produce the highest quality professional engineer. A new kind of engineer – one that is better trained technically and who is also culturally prepared for the workplace with additional soft skills in communication, leadership, and working together as a team with interdisciplinary engineering groups.
Pilling believes strongly that earning accreditation is affirmation of all their hard work and attention to detail.
“Ultimately, the mark of a great engineering school is if our engineering graduates are positive contributors to society within their communities, successful, and getting hired by companies,” emphasized Pilling. “All our Hamm School of Engineering students are getting internships and our graduates are getting jobs. Often, engineering firms are competing for our graduates early on in their four-year cycle and are getting scooped up by companies — and usually students are being looked at before they even start their senior year. They are doing internships from their sophomore year up, and often that same company will offer them the same position when they graduate. They are working for great companies.”
Those companies know that the Hamm School of Engineering students have been tested and challenged each day — maybe more than most. Waldenmaier uses old-fashioned equipment to teach his surveying class, not because they can’t afford new equipment, but because the older equipment forces the student to know more about surveying — and more importantly, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ behind the process. The latest and greatest equipment automates most of the work for the user.
There are 13 full-time engineering faculty teaching, and even more adjuncts on staff who are experts in their field. Currently, there are 223 engineering students enrolled, with nearly 100 new students starting this fall. While enrollment is growing, the focus on individual student mentorship remains a priority.
“We are very proud of what we do because we can have that one-on-one interaction with our students, and we can more effectively integrate the knowledge in different ways: merge the hands-on part with the theoretical part and keep everything connected,” added Pilling. “We can see it in their eyes if they get lost — then we can step in and help the student get back on track. So, it is very personal, one-on-one interaction with the student. I live for those moments when the light bulb goes on in the head of the student, the student gets excited, and then they start asking us really cool questions and we all learn from it. They are all engaged and interested. It’s fun.”
Faculty admit that courses in the Hamm School of Engineering are very challenging — perhaps even more so than most engineering schools. Some classes are purposely designed to include a mix of engineering students in different majors so they can work throughout the school year together on projects from start to finish and get a better understanding of each other’s discipline, as would be the case in industry engineering work. All engineering students commonly take 18 credits a semester, including not only engineering courses, but also mathematics, physics, chemistry and humanities and social science courses.
“Just recently, this summer on back-to-back days, we had two female high school students, entering their junior years, visit our engineering school years in advance of coming to Mary,” recalled Pilling. “I am happy to see people planning so far ahead of time. We can encourage them to not forget about the math and the technical stuff they should be taking in high school to help prepare them for when they come here for engineering school.”
Both of those particular high school students are from out of state — Illinois and Washington state, respectively. It’s the perfect scenario for engineering firms. After all, they began planting the seed for a new school of engineering years prior when the many companies associated with western and central North Dakota began seeing young students go to engineering colleges in North Dakota, only to graduate and leave the state to work elsewhere.
“Right now, data shows 70% of our engineering students come from out of state,” emphasized da Costa Aparecido. “One of our goals, and an administrative goal, is to attract the highest quality of students from in state and out of state, have them fall in love with the University of Mary, Bismarck-Mandan and other area communities, and then be successful so they stay and establish residency in North Dakota. In 2023, of those surveyed, 67% of our engineering graduates stayed in North Dakota to work for engineering firms.”
There is a saying, ‘success breeds success.’ With that thought in mind and its first awarded accreditation, Pilling says the Hamm School of Engineering has other programs as well: computer science, environmental engineering, construction engineering, and construction management, as it continues the mission of the university’s founders and sponsors, the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, by continually listening to the needs of the region and beyond.
Anyone who wishes to learn more about the University of Mary can do so at www.umary.edu or online.umary.edu, or by contacting an admissions representative at email@example.com, or by calling (701) 355-8030. The University of Mary is one of only 15 Recommended Cardinal Newman Society Residential Colleges and Universities in the US.
About the University of Mary: True to its motto “lumen vitae”—The Light of Life—the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.
A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 15 master’s, and five doctoral programs—in Business Administration, Education, Nursing Practice, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. The 19-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) conferences. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings.