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Monday, March 30, 2020
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Technology & Innovation

25 Years in Support of Engineering at Armstrong Atlantic State University

By Stephen M. Jodis and George C. Shields
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Engineering is a discipline that is vital to the modern economy.  Georgia and the nation have been trying to ensure an adequate supply of trained engineers for some time now.  As the 2009-10 academic year unfolds at Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU), one of its most successful programs, engineering studies, enters its 25th year. The opportunities for engineering education provided to students have grown through these years. Once primarily attracting students from Chatham and the surrounding counties, the program now attracts students from throughout the state. There are many reasons for the attraction to this program; among them is the number of programs offered in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Another reason is the success of our students. Students who study engineering at Georgia Tech and other universities in their last two years rely on a strong foundation in mathematics and the sciences in their first two years, training which is a strength at Armstrong Atlantic. Year after year, reports have shown that, on average, students taking their first two years of an engineering education at Armstrong Atlantic have grade point averages at Georgia Tech that are nearly the same as their AAU grade point averages.  The success of these students in their first year at Georgia Tech speaks to the strong foundations provided to students on the Armstrong Atlantic campus.
Since first appearing in the 1984-85 academic catalog of Armstrong State College, Armstrong Atlantic has been providing the first two years of a traditional engineering education for students who would then transfer to schools offering engineering degrees.  Prior to the 1984-85 academic year, AASU offered a 3-2 dual degree program with Georgia Tech through which students completed three years of academic work at AASU and two at Georgia Tech. After completing the requirements of the two cooperating institutions, the student was awarded a baccalaureate degree from both schools. The 1984-85 academic catalog contains the first appearance of engineering courses at AASU. At that time, these courses were offered within the Department of Chemistry and Physics, which was headed by Henry Harris, a chemist, who had earned his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Georgia Tech. We find it interesting that the engineering studies program now resides in the College of Science and Technology, which is headed by George Shields, a chemist with his degrees from Georgia Tech. The founding director of the engineering studies program was Gerald Jones, an aerospace engineer from Mississippi State. 
The 1987-88 academic year heralded the first year of the Regents Engineering Transfer Program (RETP).  This program, which continues to this day, allows students who had successfully completed the pre-engineering curriculum at Armstrong and maintained an appropriate grade point average, to transfer to Georgia Tech – Atlanta to complete their degree requirements for their desired Bachelor of Engineering degree.  By the early 1990s enrollment in the engineering studies program had grown to just over 100 students with a declared major in pre-engineering. This enrollment level remained very consistent through the early and mid-’90s when the next new engineering opportunity for students came to AASU, once again, through a collaboration with Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Regional Engineering Program (GTREP).
The Georgia Tech Regional Program (GTREP) began in 1999 and provided the opportunity to earn a Georgia Tech engineering degree without having to leave the Savannah area. Through GTREP, students could earn degrees in computer engineering and civil engineering by completing their first two years at AASU or other GTREP partner schools, Georgia Southern and Savannah State, before transferring to the Georgia Tech campus in the Savannah area to complete their last two years of study with Georgia Tech faculty. Georgia Tech initially rented space in the Savannah area before building its current campus, Georgia Tech – Savannah, located just north of the airport. In 2003, the academic offerings available through GTREP were expanded to include electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, bringing to four the number of bachelor’s degrees available. Keith Martin led AASU’s engineering studies program through this exciting period of growth, having come to Armstrong Atlantic in 1992 as its second coordinator of engineering studies. He worked closely with David Frost, director of Georgia Tech – Savannah, to ensure that Armstrong had the necessary engineering courses needed in the freshman and sophomore years to serve the needs of students in all four GTREP degrees. The advent of the GTREP program and the possibility of completing an engineering degree in the Savannah area brought increased enrollments in the engineering studies program as it grew to approximately 250 students each year in the pre-engineering program.  The Savannah area is enriched with three local institutions involved in the RETP and GTREP partnerships with Georgia Tech.
The newest opportunity for students interested in engineering at Georgia Tech is through the AASU-Georgia Tech Savannah Engineering Alliance Program, a dual enrollment program.  Students accepted into this program have been accepted by Georgia Tech and admitted to the Georgia Tech - Savannah campus and are also admitted to AASU.  Students in this program are students of both institutions and complete their first two years at Armstrong Atlantic and their remaining two years at Georgia Tech – Savannah. Students in this program do not have to go through the transfer process to Georgia Tech as the RETP and GTREP students do.  This program started in the spring of 2008 and had 32 students in its first year and 63 in its second year. Thomas Murphy has led AASU’s engineering studies program in building this new opportunity, as he became the third AASU coordinator of engineering studies in 2002. Murphy now serves as the department head for AASU’s Department of Information, Computing and Engineering. As final steps were being put into place for this new partnership between the two schools, Armstrong Atlantic was also completing work with the University System of Georgia that would allow the award of an Associate of Science degree.  The curriculum of this new degree at AASU was developed with engineering and science students in mind so that these students could earn their Associate of Science degree at Armstrong Atlantic on the way to earning their baccalaureate degree at Georgia Tech.
As we reported in July, job prospects in science and technology remain good in Savannah and the nation. Armstrong Atlantic is proud to partner with Savannah State, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech in the RETP and GTREP programs, and with Georgia Tech in the Engineering Alliance program.  In a time when discovery and implementation of new technology is demanded more than ever in our fast-paced world, Savannah is poised to continue to do its part to meet the demands of the global economy.
For more information about Armstrong Atlantic’s RETP and/or GTREP programs, see For more information about the Armstrong Atlantic Georgia Tech – Savannah Engineering Alliance program, see .

George Shields is the dean of the College of Science and Technology at Armstrong Atlantic State University.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Stephen Jodis is the assistant dean of the College of Science and Technology at Armstrong Atlantic State University.  He can be reached at Stephen.Jodis@
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