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Charleston's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center hails launch of electrical engineering curriculum
Jul. 1, 2004Charleston Post and Courier
By Jonathan Maze
On Monday, the University of South Carolina and the Lowcountry Graduate Center announced an agreement to begin a graduate-level course in electrical engineering in Charleston next month, the first class in a program aimed largely at SPAWAR -- the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center -- and local defense contractors.
The course, Power Systems Design and Analysis, will start Aug. 25.
"This will bring innovation to our war fighters," said Ward, executive director of SPAWAR's North Charleston operation. "This will raise the genius of our people."
The agreement is still unofficial. USC and the graduate center -- a joint venture for the Medical University of South Carolina, The Citadel and the College of Charleston -- still must work out some details.
Among them are a curriculum, which will be worked out with SPAWAR and defense contractors, and a schedule for coming years.
Nevertheless, USC and the center are acting quickly. The first course, which will be taught by USC professor Charles Brice, is an entry-level graduate course and is considered a good foundation on which to build a graduate degree.
Brice said the students taking the course will be working toward a USC graduate degree.
With only a month before the course is to be taught, there is little time to sign up students. Ward said he will go back to SPAWAR to see who can enter in the fall. Skip Godow, executive director of the Lowcountry Graduate Center, believes there will be 20 to 25 students in the first class.
"It was so important to get this started," Godow said, "we didn't want to waste any time."
Officials have long wanted graduate-level engineering courses taught in Charleston.
The way to that goal was paved this year when the General Assembly allocated $465,000 to expand the graduate center and add more classroom space at its North Charleston location.
The need is there, officials said. The shortage of advanced degree holders in South Carolina is considered one of the top challenges in the state's economic development efforts, particularly in Charleston, which does not have a comprehensive research institution like USC.
In helping to announce the deal, state Sen. Arthur Ravenel, R-Mount Pleasant, noted a study that said 800 people who work in the Charleston area want a graduate degree but don't have the time or ability to travel elsewhere to get one.
Ward said SPAWAR frequently hires workers with bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering. Often, their first question is where they can get an advanced degree.
Ward doesn't believe SPAWAR loses a lot of workers because of the lack of advanced degrees available here. He believes the curriculum will help his workers advance their knowledge without taking the time to go to Columbia.
"Those are the folks we want, the people who want to learn," Ward said. "We don't want folks who say, 'I've got my credentials, now I'm going to sit at my desk and do my job.'"