Austin Peay State University has received its third and final accreditation approval, officially paving the way for the University to offer an associate degree program in chemical engineering technology.
APSU was previously awarded a $6.4 million grant from the state of Tennessee to develop the program, following the December 2008 announcement that Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. (HSC) would build a new production facility in Commerce Park, Clarksville. HSC is a leading manufacturer of products used in the growing solar cell technology industry.
The Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission both approved the program last fall. In January, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools also gave the new associate degree a thumbs up, meaning the program met all three needed accreditation requirements.
“We're really excited to have passed this final hurdle in getting the program off the ground,” Dr. Tristan Denley, provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, said. “We're primed for students to begin the program in the fall.”
The chemical engineering program unofficially began last fall with about 150 students. Those individuals spent the first year of this two-year program taking core classes, such as basic chemistry, math and English.
“The second year is really very intensive in terms of their chemical engineering technology courses,” Dr. Robin Reed, chair of the APSU Department of Chemistry, said. “After this semester, they'll be halfway done. Just one more year, and we'll start producing graduates that go to work for Hemlock or TVA or wherever else needs those types of skills.”
HSC is also expected to bring in other, similar businesses to the Clarksville area, which will need employees with the skills currently being taught through APSU's chemical engineering technology program.
The University is currently building a new Chemical Engineering Technology Facility (CETF) at the intersection of College and Eighth streets to house the program. Reed said, weather permitting, they should be ready to move into that building in July. Last year, HSC presented a $2 million check to APSU to purchase laboratory equipment for the facility, and that equipment should be installed around June.
“I'm sure next fall, we'll see a lot of new faces in the program,” Reed said. “We're beginning a program that will be sustained. As this industry grows, they're going to need more folks. As more industries come to Clarksville behind HSC, they're going to need more folks. Eventually, there will be more jobs, more graduates, more people going to work. It's better all the way around for Austin Peay, but also for Clarksville and the community as well.”
For more information about the program, contact the chemistry department at 931-221-7626. -- Charles Booth