Pitt-Johnstown Launches New Engineering Program: A Historic Achievement for Johnstown and the Region


I am thrilled to announce that we have received final approval to launch a new engineering program that would culminate in the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree – a historic achievement for our Campus and community. In addition to transitioning our current engineering technology programs to engineering programs, we are also launching a new and much-needed program in Chemical Engineering beginning in fall 2016. The new Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree which was developed in response to student, faculty, alumni, and community needs, has been a centerpiece of campus long-range planning for decades. Furthermore, offering the highly sought-after engineering degree will be essential to meet emerging workforce needs of the Johnstown community and our region, raise the institutional profile and strengthen student recruitment, and advance the Campus’ mission of preparing students for success in the Real World. The launch of the new BSE degree program is the fulfillment of long held aspiration for our community and a longstanding strategic goal going back several decades.  

The new Engineering program at Pitt-Johnstown is highly illustrative of the Campus’ responsiveness to the needs of the community and the greater Johnstown region. Over the past two decades, members of our community have clearly, and at times strongly, expressed an interest in seeing our Engineering Technology program transition into a full-fledged Engineering degree program. Of note, our board members, business leaders, and legislators have repeatedly made it clear that engineering at Pitt Johnstown would have a salutary impact on our local and regional economy, providing graduates with skills to compete and transform our communities.

With regard to the critical issue of workforce development and our role as a driver of economic vitality, the new BSE degree program will enhance our graduates’ chances in a highly competitive job market. As the employability of engineering technology graduates is increasingly constrained (many employers increasingly express preference for engineering graduates), the development of the Engineering degree will better prepare Pitt-Johnstown students for the workforce where well-paying jobs in engineering are in high demand. Notably, the addition of Chemical Engineering will be most timely given the propitious developments in the local shale gas industry and its potential capacity to revive a community that still remains bruised by the collapse of the local steel and coal industry. The new program will further strengthen the University’s ties with the greater Johnstown community, serve as a key driver in attracting and developing talent, and will certainly contribute Pitt’s strength as a partner in regional economic development, consistent with Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s vision. As Pitt-Johnstown Board member and business leader Mr. Mark Pasquerilla stated, “This is a giant win for the region. A University of Pittsburgh engineering degree is a gateway to opportunity. Our region needs more skilled engineering graduates who can build our future.”

Furthermore, the new BSE degree program will have a significant and far-reaching impact on our institutional profile and will clearly raise our standing in relation to peers in the region and beyond. Of note, the core curriculum of the new BSE program at Pitt-Johnstown is virtually identical to the Swanson School of Engineering curriculum at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland. The capacity to offer the world-class Pitt engineering curriculum here in Johnstown will further enhance Johnstown’s brand vis–à–vis peer institutions that clearly cannot match the prominence and reach of Pitt’s world class brand.  Without doubt, our new BSE program that is fully aligned with Pitt’s engineering curriculum will certainly strengthen the value, credibility, and appeal of our program, providing a strong boost to enrollment growth.

As institutional quality is enhanced through our first-rate engineering program, we will be better positioned to recruit top high school students in our area. It is also expected that the addition of the new and sought-after degree in Chemical Engineering will also help attract high-quality students from across the state, out of state and internationally. Our new program will also help Pitt’s Swanson School meet the overwhelming demand for engineering by providing more engineering slots at our picturesque Johnstown Campus. Student retention and persistence as well as graduation rates will likely improve as well. Last but not least, higher perceptions of institutional quality will enhance our prospects for faculty and staff recruitment as well.

Above all else, this monumental institutional accomplishment was made possible by the collaborative, thoughtful, and focused engagement of our faculty, particularly the engineering faculty and their director, Dr. Jerry Samples. Kudos and heartfelt gratitude for the long hours of planning, writing, and re-rewriting a tome of a proposal that topped 400 pages! In addition, we received very strong support from the entire senior leadership at the University of Pittsburgh with special thanks to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Provost/Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia Beeson, and Dean of Engineering Gerald Holder and his colleagues. This collaborative ethos and focus on the institution’s long-term success was clearly reflected in the overwhelming campus support for this new engineering program. After an extensive and searching review of the proposal’s merits and impact on our long-term goals for enrollment and fiscal sustainability in a challenging demographic environment, our Campus Faculty Senate approved this program in a singularly impressive unanimous vote. As thunderous applause from the faculty united by a shared vision of institutional progress echoed across the room, the long-range goal to develop an engineering program in Johnstown, a goal that has been brimming with urgency for much too long, a dream going back decades, sprung to life.

Likewise, we also owe this success to the sustained efforts as well as the support and leadership of our Board members and friends of the university. As an elated Mr. Skip Picking noted today, “The establishment of an engineering degree program at Pitt-Johnstown is a big deal. It demonstrates a significant amount of confidence in Pitt-Johnstown Administration and faculty by the University of Pittsburgh. This is an accomplishment with a lot of community and student benefit.” Similarly Board Chair Mr. Thomas Kurtz stated, “The BSE degree program and the chemical engineering program solidifies Pitt Johnstown’s position of being at the forefront of higher education in our region. This University has always demonstrated the ability to respond and align programs with the high-tech professional workforce needs of tomorrow. The addition of these expanded engineering programs provide access to all who seek fulfillment of career and economic goals through education.”

Thank you to all the students, faculty, staff, alumni, Board members, legislative and governmental leaders, business leaders, and community members who brought us to this historic threshold. With your sustained collaboration, involvement, dedication, and leadership we are launching an ambitious new phase of our institutional journey, writing a new chapter with regard to Pitt-Johnstown’s positive community impact and solidifying our position as the regional leader educating for success in the Real World!


Jem Spectar


Community Quotes and Comments:

“This is a giant win for the region.   A University of Pittsburgh engineering degree is a gateway to opportunity.   Our region needs more skilled engineering  graduates who can build our future.”

Mark Pasquerilla

“The BSE degree program and the Chemical engineering program solidifies Pitt Johnstown’s position of being at the forefront of higher education in our region. This University has always demonstrated the ability to respond and align programs with the high-tech professional workforce needs of tomorrow.  The addition of these expanded engineering programs provide access to all who seek fulfillment of career and economic goals through education.”

Tom Kurtz


“Congratulations! This is outstanding news!” 

Jonna Contacos-Sawyer

“With the addition of these new programs, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown continues to expand and enhance its program offerings and will create an increased interest on the part of those exploring opportunities at institutions of higher learning.  Our region will benefit by providing more opportunities to our young people and will in all likelihood attract young people from other regions to our area.  The business community also stands to greatly benefit.”

Ed Sheehan

“Welcome and long-awaited news!  Congratulations. This will absolutely impact enrollment and attention.”

Rosemary Pawlowski

“Congratulations !!!!!!!!!!  That is Great news!”                                                                

Mitch Fetterolf

“Terrific news!”                                                                                                                                               

Sean Isgan

“Congratulations!!  Moving forward into the future.” 

                                            Verna Carter

 "We have been wanting this for a long time.  So glad it has finally happened.  Great news and congratulations.”

Lana Custer

“Great news. What we all have been hoping for!”

Gary Minchau

“Long-awaited, wonderful news!  Congratulations!”

Linda Fleming