Benedictine College Expands and Enhances Engineering

Benedictine Engineering Adds Distinctive Elements

Published: Monday, September 28, 2015


The Benedictine College Engineering Department, in its seventh year, has entered a phase of enormous growth and expansion.

Dr. Darrin Muggli, chairman of engineering, spelled out the vision for the program.

“Benedictine College intends to leverage its established liberal arts education to become the leader in undergraduate engineering education,” he said. “No one else can do this the way we can. Benedictine College students can communicate effectively and they have a broader sense of the world. They analyze problems from many different angles and viewpoints.”

He listed the latest developments with Benedictine College Engineering that make the college’s program distinctive:

  • Expanded Faculty Support for Students. Benedictine College now employs seven fulltime engineering professors, including five PhD-level engineers and professional engineers with extensive industrial experience. This provides students with ready personal interaction with engineering faculty dedicated to Benedictine College students — a situation not possible at larger schools or new programs.
  • $1 Million in Grants. A new $250,000 Keck Foundation Grant brings to $1 million the support awarded to Benedictine Engineering from engineering foundations, a significant vote of confidence for the program.
  • ABET Accreditation.  Through a distinctive partnership, the University of North Dakota grants ABET accredited degrees to Benedictine College Engineering students in four disciplines: Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical.
  • 15 Full Labs. Benedictine College has established 15 full lab courses in Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with extensive lab equipment to which students have full access. Students remain on Benedictine College’s campus for all classes and labs.
  • 4.5-Year Program. Many Engineering programs require five years to complete a degree. Benedictine College’s program is now a four and a half year program, with all classes taking place on Benedictine College’s campus.
  • Student Internships/Work Experience. As a 4.5-year program, most students gain engineering experience through internships between their final semesters.
  • Successful Graduates. Every graduate of the program has passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and has found success in his or her chosen career path.

Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis said the college’s bold, innovative strategic plan, Benedictine 2020: A Vision for Greatness, has directed the college’s expansion and enhancement of Engineering.

“Through a planned and systematic approach, Benedictine College has hired world-class professors who excel in their fields and are committed to the mission of the college,” he said.

President Minnis said the next steps for Benedictine College Engineering are already being taken.

Millions have been raised and plans have been drawn for the Benedictine College Science and Engineering Center, which will be almost twice as large as the next largest building on campus.

“In support of engineering and the sciences, Benedictine College is embarking on the largest capital project in its history,” said Minnis. “The Science and Engineering Center project will seize the unique moment provided by a decade of unprecedented commitment by Benedictine College to the sciences.”

He spelled out the strength of STEM studies at Benedictine College:

  • Benedictine College has hired 15 new STEM faculty in the past 10 years; more than in any area.
  • The college invests roughly $115,000 into the yearly operating budgets in the STEM fields, far more than any other department.
  • STEM majors receive the largest academic scholarships of any majors on campus.  The college is investing in science majors at a higher rate than any other majors on campus.
  • Benedictine College STEM programs attract students with the highest average ACT and GPA of any in the school.


President Minnis said that Engineering is the cornerstone of a campus-wide commitment to the sciences, noting that Pope Francis has called Catholics to “an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences” to “encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all.”

“We believe faith, morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives. They cannot be separated,” Minnis said. “That is why it is so important to train future doctors, engineers and scientists at a place like Benedictine College that understands the essential role of faith, morality and ethics in the sciences.”

The school lists several Catholic Identity distinctions in its backgrounder Thriving Faith at Benedictine College.

Students appreciate the program.

“This summer I worked in Greeley, Colorado for Noble Energy, a Petroleum Production Company,” said James Nistler, a senior mechanical and general engineering student. “I was recognized as a competitive intern due to the values that Benedictine College strengthened in me. ... I have to attribute my development and success to those who have challenged me throughout the years, especially my teachers at Benedictine College who not only instruct me in the technical aspects but demonstrate to me what it means to develop fortitude as I practice my Catholic Faith in the workplace”
Stephen Schaad, a senior mechanical engineer, said the program provided great real-world preparation.
“At Lennox International, I was interning with students from Texas A&M, University of Texas at Arlington, Iowa State and Purdue. By far, I am not the best engineer at Benedictine, but compared to students from these other schools I was considered the best intern,” he said. “We are not just an engineering program we are a top engineering program.”

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.