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History of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science

Engineering and Computer Science at PSU: A Remarkable Past and Bright Future

Engineering classes, circa 1950-1960

Engineers like straight lines, but strategists know they occasionally must hit their target from oblique angles. Using the angles is how PSU created its highly regarded engineering school in Portland.

Dr. H. Chik M. Erzurumlu, Dean Emeritus of the PSU Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, is a hopeful visionary: "Look at the track record of where we started in the 60s and where the college is now. At this rate, the College promises to be an exciting place for creating the next generation of technology."


1960 - 1980: Founding, independence and strategic steps

The Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science started in 1960 when the Applied Science Department was organized; but, Maseeh College roots go back to the late 1950s with the start of pre-engineering courses.

Early advocates of engineering education at Portland State "knew we couldn't go all the way at once. We had to take it one step at a time," says Dr. Erzurumlu.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Oregon companies needing engineering graduates weren't quite sure what they were getting when they hired Portland State Applied Science graduates. "Employers took a chance, and found our students were well educated and valuable," Dr. Erzurumlu says.

When the Division of Engineering and Applied Science became an independent academic department in 1980 - no longer part of the College of Science - administrators focused on six strategic goals:

  1. Program development and ABET accreditation.
  2. Hiring top faculty.
  3. Industry partnerships.
  4. Inter-institutional partnerships.
  5. Research productivity, such as increasing funding and refereed papers.
  6. Improving the quality of students.

"All these things have been accomplished," says Dr. Erzurumlu, who was named head of the new division and became dean of the new School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) two years later.


1980 - 1990: Advocates aid SEAS growth

A determined university president and generous financial support from leading Oregon companies helped the PSU engineering program grow during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Development of engineering and other professional programs was "a very major part of my presidency," says former PSU President Dr. Joseph Blumel. "It was a high priority for me in building the institution. I thought we just had to have it."

Oregon electronics pioneer Tektronix, Inc. had been a generous donor to engineering education in Oregon. The growing ranks of PSU graduates working at Tektronix caught management's eye. In the late 1980s, Tek and its Tektronix Foundation donated roughly $2 million in cash and equipment to SEAS. This proved to be just the seed capital needed to launch PSU's engineering programs to the next level.

"It was recognition. PSU was providing Tek with well-prepared engineers and other professionals," says Dianna Smiley, former executive director of the Tektronix Foundation. The gifts supported activities in the Department of Electrical Engineering as well as the Computer Science master's program. The Tektronix name helped attract faculty to PSU, Smiley recalls.


1995 - present: The next generation

Robert D. Dryden became SEAS' second dean in 1995, following Dr. Erzurumlu's retirement. Under Dr. Dryden, SEAS became the College of Engineering and Computer Science in 2000. Dr. Dryden implemented plans to achieve his top priorities, such as:

  • Building the Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology, a 136,000 square-foot, five-story building proposed for the PSU campus on Southwest Fourth Avenue. A $70 million fundraising effort was initiated for the new building, as well as extensive remodeling of the Fourth Avenue Building, home to several Maseeh College departments.
  • Doubling the number of engineering graduates with degrees from Portland State by the end of this decade.
  • Doubling external research dollars coming into Maseeh College.

Other accomplishments under Dean Dryden include:

  • Expanding the number of laboratory opportunities for students.
  • Improving the technology infrastructure - including computers, software, equipment and support - necessary for students and faculty.
  • Increasing scholarship funds from about $50,000 in 1996 to about $300,000 annually in 2003.

These strategies and accomplishments are being achieved with the help of an industry Advisory Board, which worked with Maseeh College to develop the College's strategic plan. The plan is driven by the Maseeh College Mission Statement, which reads: "To be the university of choice in the Northwest for quality engineering education and research in partnership with regional industry and government."

These efforts and the generous support of strategic partners in industry have produced a 57 percent enrollment increase between 1999 and 2003.

Early university history

1946 - The Vanport Extension Center (VEC) was established.

1952 - The Center moved to downtown Portland.

1952 - The Vanport Extension Center merged with the Portland Extension Center becoming Portland State Extension Center (PSEC), with the passage of the Cramer-Byrne plan on March 11, by the state board.

1952 - On February 10, Gov. Paul Patterson signed the bill that established Portland State College as a four-year, degree-granting institution.

1961 - Graduate studies were added. The first graduate degrees offered were the Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Social Work.

1968 - Doctoral programs began.

1969 - The institution was granted university status, becoming Portland State University (PSU).

Detailed PSU engineering education history

1960 - Dr. Harry J. White became the first head of the newly created Department of Applied Science. 1961 - First 10 B.S. degrees in Applied Science degrees awarded.

1962 - Chik Erzurumlu, who would eventually become the founding dean of CECS, joined the PSC faculty.

1968-69 - Portland State College became a University. Portland State was authorized to start three doctoral programs, Urban Studies and two related to the future CECS, Environmental Sciences and Systems Science.

1961-73 - Applied Science degrees awarded: 320 BS, 17 MS, 1 PhD (Systems Science)

1973 - The "e" word is used for the first time in association with a four-year degree, as the department is renamed Applied Science and Engineering, part of the College of Science. The State Board of Higher Education approved the new name but the battle didn't end there. The staff of another government organization, the Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission, recommended against the change. In a controversial decision, the Commission went against the staff recommendation and approved the new expanded PSU program.

1974 - The department name changed to the Department of Engineering and Applied Science. Sections were established in Electrical-Electronics Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Structural Engineering.

1976 - PSU's structural engineering program received accreditation by the Engineering Council for Professional Development, now known as ABET.

1980 - Engineering spun out of the College of Science, becoming an independent academic program, called the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Chik Erzurumlu was named head of the division.

1982 - Structural Engineering was reaccredited by ABET as Civil Engineering. Mechanical Engineering received ABET accreditation.

1982 - The School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) was formed. Dr. Erzurumlu was named Dean. Sections became the departments of Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. SEAS offered four B.S. degrees (civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering and applied science). The dean's top priorities were program and faculty development.

1983 - Electrical Engineering program was accredited by ABET.

1983 - Computer Science, a special emphasis area of the Mathematics Department, gained departmental status in the College of Liberal Arts and Science.

1985 - Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering began awarding master's degrees.

1985 - The School's first Ph.D. program was approved in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Other engineering related doctoral programs were offered as a Systems Science Ph.D. with emphasis in SySc-Civil Engineering and SySc-Mechanical Engineering.

1985 - The Computer Science Department became part of SEAS, which made PSU one of the first institutions in Oregon to bring that discipline into an engineering school.

1982-92 - SEAS adds 10 faculty positions with the assistance of challenge grants from the Oregon High Technology Council and the Tektronix Foundation, which covered the salaries of new hires in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for their first two years. "Tek put resources where it really made a difference," Erzurumlu said in a 2003 interview for this website. "So did Intel, with donations of equipment."

1987 - SEAS adds the Engineering Management Graduate Program, now the Department of Engineering and Technology Management (ETM). Dundar Kocaoglu was named as head of the new program.

1989-91 - Lead by Dr. Kocaoglu, a nonprofit corporation was created to organize an ambitious international conference, Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET). The first PICMET, in 1991, attracted a large number of participants from around the world.

1989 - Computer Science master's program was approved.

1990 - The Oregon Joint Graduate Schools of Engineering (OJGSE) was formed to stimulate collaboration amongst Oregon's public and private institutions offering graduate programs in high technology, manufacturing and environmental engineering. The goal was to enhance educational and research opportunities in the Portland metropolitan region.

1994 - Computer Science program accredited by the Computer Science Accrediting Board (CSAB).

1995 - Dr. Erzurumlu, founding dean of SEAS, retired after 33 years in teaching, research and administration. He remains on the faculty as Dean Emeritus.

1995 - Robert D. Dryden is named dean.

2000 - SEAS became the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), dropping the historic name of applied science.

1999 - The Department of Mechanical Engineering expands by adding Materials Science, a program formerly at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology. OGI is now part of Oregon Health & Science University.

2001 - Ph.D. degree programs for Computer Science and Civil Engineering were approved.

2003 - The State Board of Higher Education approves a Master of Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering.

2004 - Fariborz Maseeh, PSU Alumnus and founder of The Massiah Foundation donates $8 million from the Massiah Foundation to the College of Engineering and Computer Science - the largest private gift in the University's history. The donation will be used to construct the Northwest Center for Engineering and Computer Science and to establish two professorships, five student fellowships and an endowment for the dean of the college. The College is renamed the Fariborz Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

2005 - First Ph.D. awarded to a female student in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

2005 - The Westside engineering degree program launches at the CAPITAL Center in Beaverton. The Westside program will offer four master's degrees. These include Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Technology Management and the Oregon Master of Software Engineering.

2006 - The Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology opens as home to the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

2006 - Oregon University System State Board of Higher Education approves a Ph.D. degree program in Engineering Technology Management.

2006 - The Maseeh College opens a Career Service Center to provide career guidance and job search assistance to MCECS students and Alumni.

2008 - Sunita Williams, US Naval Commander and US Astronaut, and Diana Laboy-Rush, Maseeh College alumna and Ph.D. student in Engineering and Technology Management, are inducted into the Denice Dee Denton Women Engineers Hall of Fame at the Maseeh College during the inaugural induction ceremony.

2008 - Dr. Robert D. Dryden steps down as dean after 13 years of service. He remains on the faculty as a professor of Engineering and Technology Management.

2008 - Richard I. Knight, a 32-year veteran of the high tech industry and Maseeh College Advisory Board member, is appointed as Interim Dean.

2008 – Ph.D. degree program in Mechanical and Materials Engineering is approved.

2009 - Renjeng Su, D.Sc. is named dean.

2010 – First Ph.D. in Mechanical and Materials Engineering is awarded.

2010 – The Dryden Drop Tower, a 102-foot tall metal framework used to create and study effects of weightlessness, is installed in the Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology.