CSU, Adams State join forces
to offer engineering degree in Alamosa

by Anne Manning | CSU science writer


PROVIDING clear pathways to higher education for all students with the will and desire to succeed is one of Colorado State University’s most cherished values.

Another plank in that goal is being met, thanks to a newly signed partnership between CSU and Adams State University. 

Starting in fall 2022, students in the San Luis Valley can enroll in an accredited bachelor’s degree program from CSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, being offered in its entirety on the Adams State campus in Alamosa. The partnership gives San Luis Valley students the chance to earn a Walter Scott, Jr., College of Engineering degree at their local institution, opening new doors for them and attracting a larger swath of students to become part of the Ram engineering community.

The program, signed by both universities earlier this year, is being offered to provide new opportunities to historically underserved students in rural Colorado. Adams State enrolls a large number of Pell Grant-eligible and first-generation students and is a Hispanic Serving Institution whose student body is 38 percent Hispanic. Science, technology, engineering and math disciplines continue to lag in their reach among Hispanic populations. With mechanical engineering the most popular undergraduate engineering major in the United States, demand for such a program is high. 

“There are lots of students in the San Luis Valley who, because of family or financial situations, can’t leave the Valley to come up to Fort Collins and get their engineering degree,” said Christian Puttlitz, CSU department head and professor of mechanical engineering. “So we’re bringing it to them.”

Puttlitz continued: “Given the earning potential of someone who gets a mechanical engineering degree, this could be a life-changer for not only the current generation, but many generations going forward.”

Rams in Alamosa

According to the agreement, the first two years of the CSU degree program will be taught by Adams State faculty; the second half, which includes the senior design capstone project, will be taught by CSU faculty located at the Alamosa campus. Adams State will also offer an associate’s degree linked to the successful completion of the two years of lower-division courses.

It became clear several years ago to Adams State leadership that the unicversity needed to develop an on-campus engineering program to continue offering viable STEM pathways and recruit more students who are talented in those areas, explained Matt Nehring, professor of physics and interim director of the School of Science, Mathematics, and Technology at Adams State. In recognition of the need, the state Department of Education recently awarded Adams State a Title III grant to help partially fund the new collaboration with CSU.

The advantages of the program are numerous for Adams State, Nehring said. It allows the school to offer a sought-after, accredited degree without having to start a program from scratch, capitalizing instead on the experience and success of CSU engineering. The program will be naturally tailored for area-specific needs, with smaller class sizes, minimal commute and local faculty. But most importantly, the mechanical engineering degree will offer a bright career path for students from the six-county San Luis Valley. For that reason, local school districts and industry are as excited about the partnership as the two schools are, Nehring said.

Attracting engineers

Loren Howard, president of the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, said such a program is badly needed for his area and a welcome addition. His organization provides electricity to the area’s rural residents, and attracting employees is a perpetual challenge – doubly so for positions that require advanced education. For many years, the cooperative has hired engineering interns in the hopes of retaining them after graduation.

“Having an engineering program locally at Adams State, combined with CSU’s reputation for quality engineering education, will provide an excellent opportunity for us to attract future engineers,” Howard said

Anthony Marchese, associate dean for academic and student affairs in the Walter Scott, Jr., College of Engineering, was one of the first people at the table more than two years ago in conversation on the partnership, and he was quick to credit Puttlitz, Nehring and other colleagues at Adams State, as well as Toni-Lee Viney, manager of undergraduate programs in CSU mechanical engineering, for bringing the agreement into the end zone. 

The partnership follows a model that’s been successful at other institutions across the state, Marchese said, and this has resulted in a growing number of students who can access previously out-of-reach educational opportunities. Bringing a CSU degree program to students in Alamosa gives those students more choices about their future ­– something Marchese is particularly proud to have helped catalyze.

“Some students will excel in one environment, while others may excel in a different one,” he said, “And now, more Colorado students have multiple choices available to them.”

More information on the CSU degree program at Adams State at adams.edu/csume.

Photo by Amy Kucera

Starting in the fall of 2022, Adams State University in partnership with Colorado State University will offer a four-year mechanical engineering degree on the Adams State campus. Here, students in a first-year seminar class work with with electronic boards.

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