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UT Creates New Department of Applied Engineering and Technology

Aiming to meet industry demand and better serve its land-grant mission, the Tickle College of Engineering is creating a new Department of Applied Engineering and Technology. The four-year engineering degree programs to be offered by the department will prepare students to directly enter the workforce upon graduation with an emphasis on hands-on and applied experience.

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees voted last Friday, March 1, 2024, to allow the university to move forward with the new department, which will offer accredited engineering degree programs in areas of high demand for the state and region.

TCE plans to offer degrees with different focus areas that include applied manufacturing engineering, applied aerospace engineering, energy storage and conversion, and applied computer science and technology. The first program is expected to launch in the fall of 2025, pending approval by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The new department would align UT with other top engineering schools like Purdue University and Texas A&M University, which have established applied engineering and engineering technology programs. UT will be working closely with an industrial board of advisors to design programs that offer extensive hands-on and relevant experience for students in each focus area.

The faculty for the new department will mainly be non-tenured professors of practice, meaning they’ve had significant long-term industrial experience in the field. They can speak the language of the industry and train student to work in the industry.

Students will be required to partake in an internship or cooperative education (co-op) experience as part of their degree fulfillment. A reduced ACT score requirement and additional applied engineering mathematics coursework to bridge skills upward will provide access to students who would not normally meet the traditional engineering program mathematics requirement. 

“We believe this new department helps better meet our land-grant mission to serve the needs of our state,” said Dean Matthew Mench, the Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the college. “We do an excellent job of traditional engineering curriculum from the baccalaureate to the PhD level, but since I have been Dean, I have heard from so many of our employers that there is a need for this new department, in addition to continued growth and investment in our existing world-class engineering programs. This will help fill those needs and further strengthen our partnerships with industry.”

The Tennessee Dept. of Labor estimates there will be more than 10,000 engineering job openings across the state each year throughout the 2020s. Combined, the universities in the state that have engineering programs fall well short of producing an equivalent number of engineers.

The new applied engineering and technology degree programs will give UT more flexibility to adapt to the changing dynamics of the industry and align with new workforce needs that may arise.

 “The programs will pave the way for innovative engineering education, expanding access and offering students at risk of leaving traditional paths a chance to thrive,” said Michael Danquah, associate dean for academic and student affairs. “This approach will boost student retention and equip them with practical skills ready for the workforce.”

The college has spent more than a year listening to various regional employers to identify specific non-technical skills that will also be a focus of the new programs. Enhanced skills in communication, business acumen, and leadership will be required as part of these programs.

“Our vision is to not only create flexible programs in great demand, but to establish a level of excellence that puts them at the top nationally,” Mench said.  “The areas we have selected to develop programs in have tremendous workforce demand in the state. Our expertise in these areas, combined with access to top-notch facilities, will provide students with an educational opportunity they can’t get anywhere else and put them in a position to be immediately sought after by industry for their skills.”

The new Department of Applied Engineering and Technology is one of several TCE enhancements the BOT approved last week. Also included was the new Department of Biomedical Engineering, a separation from the current Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering; a new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering; and the creation of a Doctor of Engineering (DEng) program for the Department of Industrial and System Engineering (ISE).

“The Tickle College of Engineering has never been in a better position. We have set record after record in research expenditures, undergraduate and graduate enrollment, student success, intellectual property development, and other areas with over 30 new faculty coming in the next two years to our existing programs.” Mench said. “I have never been more excited for the future of the Tickle College of Engineering.”


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,