Chapman’s five-year plan in ‘engineering the future’


The Keck Center will house both the Fowler School of Engineering, anticipated to open in 2020, and the Schmid College of Science and Technology. Photo by Riani Astuti

Story by Jasmin Sani, Katie Takemoto and Maura Kate Mitchelson

As Chapman prepares to open its new 145,000 square foot science center this fall, the university’s five-year plan, which lays out its goals for 2018-2022, focuses largely on expanding research, establishing its new engineering program and bolstering its endowment and fundraising.

“Over the last 10 years, certainly Chapman has gone from being a school that was in the social sciences of arts to now having strong sciences and health sciences and being able to get into engineering,” said Tom Piechota, Chapman’s vice president for research.

Opening the engineering school

The first step is to establish the Fowler School, a new college for engineering students.

“I think it is important to (create) a really exceptional experience for our students,” said President Daniele Struppa. “We are a beautiful campus but there are still areas that we could improve; we’re going to work hard to make this the best possible campus.”

The Keck Center for Science and Engineering is set to open its doors this fall, but the engineering wing will not yet be complete. Keck will be home to Schmid College, which is currently housed in the Hashinger Science Center, and the new Fowler School of Engineering, which was established with a $45 million donation in February 2017.

The Hashinger Science Center is projected to be renovated one floor at a time over the span of six years, from 2019 to 2024.

The engineering wing will be under construction until the Fowler School opens in fall 2020, although other classes will be held in the new building during construction, said Kris Olsen, Chapman’s vice president of campus planning and operations. After the Fowler School opens, the engineering programs in Schmid College will transfer to Fowler.

“Chapman prides itself on ensuring that, as we launch new programs, they are distinctive and forward-looking in their design,” Andrew Lyon, the dean of Schmid College, wrote in an email to The Panther.

The Keck Center is within its $130 million budget, but considering it’s incomplete, Olsen said the budget is still subject to change. Once the Fowler School is complete, it will also offer degrees in computer engineering and electrical engineering, as well as a master’s degree in computer science.

“We look forward to developing programs that not only provides a deep disciplinary education in engineering, but also connects broadly across campus to ensure that engineering students benefit from all that Chapman’s diverse and interconnected campus has to offer,” Lyon said.

Increasing fundraising

Within the next seven to 10 years, Chapman’s goal is to raise $500 million, and 47 percent of that will be allocated to the university’s endowment, which Struppa told The Panther in May 2016 he wants to increase to $1 billion. Thirty-nine percent will be allotted to campus expansion and renovation, and the remaining 10 and 4 percent will be used for scholarship aid and enhancing academic programs.

To raise this money, Struppa said that Chapman intends to bring in new supporters of the university.

“We have a lot of corporations (and foundations) that support us because they (see) Chapman does a great job at creating the workforce that they need,” Struppa said.

Increasing diversity

In 2000, 46 percent of Chapman’s incoming class was from Orange County, spurring the university to increase diversity. By fall 2017, only 17 percent were from the surrounding county. Struppa stressed that diversity isn’t simply a matter of skin color.

“What we want to do is describe the student body as diverse: in ethnic composition, in economic composition, in religious background, in cognitive ability and style,” Struppa said.

By promoting a diverse student body, students will develop important workplace skills, Struppa said.

“If I have a team, I work surrounded by people that are different from me. That way, (we can) solve the problem through … (more) than just one approach,” Struppa said.

Struppa also said that the university will move away from just considering GPA and standardized test results in admissions, and the Office of Admissions won’t use simple numbers it receives for standardized tests as the determining factor in admission.

“To just look at the SAT would be silly,” Struppa said. “We challenge the community to rise above the complexity of the problem.”

Expanding research

Over the past five years, Chapman’s research expenditures have doubled from $3.3 million to $6.5 million and with this increase comes the advancement of faculty and student citations in scientific journals – something that Piechota said can help increase university rankings.

“If we have more citations, that means Chapman’s name is out there more and people recognize us as being part of scholarly works. That enhances how we’re being included in part of those rankings,” he said.

Aside from rankings, research benefits the campus learning environment. Piechota and Struppa said professors who currently perform research don’t just teach their classes from textbooks, but also from studies they conducted themselves. Not only will new research projects increase Chapman’s national standing, but Struppa said it will enhance the quality of education.

“Research leads to better teachers in the classroom, teachers that are more engaged,” Struppa said. “Instead of just teaching the books, (professors) are teaching what they are learning every day.”

Expanding the Irvine campus

Chapman’s Rinker Health Sciences Campus in Irvine will open the Brain Institute, which will specialize in techniques like computational neuroscience to understanding the brain.

“The Brain Institute is going to bring together an interdisciplinary team of scientists who are interested in studying not only brain function, but brain dysfunction, and also interesting questions that arise like, “What is free will?’ and, ‘What constitutes consciousness?’” said Janeen Hill, the dean of the Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

The lot for the campus is 25 acres and has six buildings, but only two are in use. The campus houses the School of Pharmacy and Crean College graduate programs, but the university may move some graduate programs to Irvine – something that Provost Glenn Pfeiffer said is not because of student overpopulation in Orange.

“The five-year plan does not discuss any ‘tensions’ between Chapman and the Orange community,” Pfeiffer wrote in an email to The Panther. “If we stick to our enrollment plan and our facilities plan, we shouldn’t have a problem.”