CH2M Hill gives $1M to WSU Tri-Cities for degree program

By Jacques Von Lunen, Herald staff writerFebruary 23, 2011 

RICHLAND -- A large donation made to Washington State University Tri-Cities on Tuesday will help establish a new bachelor's degree program at the Richland campus.

Hanford contractor CH2M Hill gave $1 million to WSU Tri-Cities for its science and engineering programs.

WSU officials said the money will be used to hire an additional civil engineering instructor and a director for science. The additional instructor will enable the Richland campus to award bachelor's degrees in civil engineering once Pullman administrators approve.

Science and engineering are areas that "we as a nation need to support," said John Lehew, president of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., at a ceremony in Richland. They also are key areas for promoting sustainable economic development in the Tri-Cities, he said.

And there's great interest from students in civil engineering programs, Scott Hudson, director of engineering at WSU Tri-Cities, told the Herald.

Until now, a lot of those students went to Pullman because the Richland campus only offers courses in the first three years of the program.

Students then have had to take their fourth and final year at the main campus, which meant many chose to just do the whole program in Pullman, Hudson said.

But some Tri-City students can't just pick up and move.

"It's been a great hardship for students who are working in part-time jobs or internships here," Hudson said.

Students such as Jake Haertling, a 28-year-old who is married with two kids. He manages an apartment complex in Kennewick, which means he's living rent-free -- not a situation he can afford to give up while in college.

But Haertling is about to finish his third year in the civil engineering program. Without the added faculty in Richland he would have had to take courses in Pullman to finish his degree.

"There was no way I was going to move," Haertling said. "I was looking at scheduling classes on two days a week and commuting. We're all pretty excited about the news."

Tuesday's donation will allow WSU Tri-Cities to hire a third instructor. One -- Akram Hossain -- had been teaching all of the civil engineering courses here. The university already was in the process of hiring a second with money donated last fall by Washington River Protection Solutions.

By adding a third instructor with CH2M Hill's money, the department can teach all required courses in the field and issue degrees here as soon as the faculty senate in Pullman approves the change, Hudson said.

Civil engineering covers a wide range of technical jobs, Hossain said. Graduates can go into areas such as structural design, wastewater treatment or road building.

Hossain's specialty is environmental engineering. The job posting the university had already put out is for a structural engineering teacher, and the position paid for by Tuesday's donation will be filled by a water resources engineer.

Covering those three subject areas will give the department the breadth needed to be a degree program, Hudson said.

The faculty senate is expected to rule in favor of the new bachelor program this spring. The program will be in place this fall, he said.

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