The Community College Baccalaureate and Iron Range Engineering: Limiting Rural Brain Drain in Northeastern Minnesota by Offering a Hands-On Baccalaureate Degree on a Community College Campus
Two educational organizations have collaborated on a nationally recognized, innovative, project-centered engineering curriculum for the third and fourth year of a baccalaureate degree in which hands-on experiences and industry-sponsored projects are the fundamental component of the degree. The Iron Range Engineering (IRE) program curriculum is of a type that has never been attempted in the state of Minnesota. This program creates a career pathway for engineering students in rural northeastern Minnesota in the hopes to help stop rural brain drain in an area of Minnesota losing its young human capital in alarming numbers. IRE also provides access to a baccalaureate degree in engineering on a community college campus of the Northeast (Minnesota) Higher Education District by partnering with Minnesota State University, Mankato. The heart of this curricular innovation is a shift from a conventional classroom learning environment to industry-style learning environments where baccalaureate-level students will work on real-world projects alongside practicing engineers. These projects are not merely internships or field trips. They are in fact the very content of the curriculum, experienced by students in a competency-based, experiential approach never before used for engineering education in Minnesota. This descriptive case study allows the first generation cohort of students to describe in their own words the Iron Range Engineering program. Ten findings that describe the Iron Range Engineering program emerged. Implications for community college baccalaureate delivery are discussed, and future research possibilities are presented.
0449: Educational leadership
0745: Higher education