CSU to test metro Denver waters with engineering program

In its first semester, Colorado State University’s Denver South initiative will provide graduate-level classes to engineers from some of the world’s leading companies, including CH2M Hill and Lockheed Martin.

Earlier this month, CSU finalized a partnership with CH2M Hill that will allow the university to offer two engineering classes from the CSU College of Engineering to students in the south metro Denver area, using CH2M Hill’s training facilities as the classroom.

Classes begin Jan. 18, and while some students have enrolled, the roster hasn’t been filled yet, according to Ajay Menon, dean of the CSU School of Business. The classes are open to anyone in the area, not just employees of CH2M Hill, although some from that company will be taking the class.

CSU is holding informational sessions and doing one-on-one recruiting to find students interested in and qualified for the program.

There are many other engineering companies located in the south metro Denver area, according to Kyle Henley, director of Denver public relations for the university. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Merrick and Co., both industry leaders, are located nearby, along with a host of others, Henley said. Employees from those companies would benefit from the classes as well.

In addition to the two classes being offered at CH2M Hill, two online classes will round out the engineering curriculum for CSU Denver South. The classes will count toward a master’s degree or Ph.D. in systems engineering from CSU.

The engineering curriculum will be the only one offered at CSU Denver South in its first semester, Henley said, but more programs are in the works.

In the fall 2014 semester, which begins in August, the university hopes to offer classes in nursing and business. CSU is working to find corporate partners who will host on-site classes the same way CH2M Hill is doing for engineers.

Finding willing companies shouldn’t be difficult, Menon said, adding that, “Companies are coming forward because they want well-trained candidates to choose from.”

Douglas County is one of the fastest-growing corporate communities in Colorado, Menon said, and companies there need access to properly trained professionals. The need is so great that the south metro business community approached CSU about establishing a presence there.

“This is a market that has a need for a high-value degree program,” Menon said. South metro Denver sits between the University of Denver and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, miles away from a four-year university that might allow professionals to attain a higher degree while still working.

About 18 months ago, business leaders from south metro Denver came to CSU to seek help with workforce development in the area. After more than a year of market research, CSU decided to slowly launch the program, letting student demand drive the rate of the program’s growth.

CSU has pledged $500,000 to support the program initially, but the university is looking for other partnerships to make the program financially sustainable, offering scholarships and other necessities at an institution of higher learning.

Holding classes at corporate training facilities allows the university to determine which programs will be popular and useful to students without the investment of a physical campus, Henley said.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR
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