Addressing the crowd at the first Silk Speaker series lecture, which featured former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald S.J. announced some big plans for USF’s future.
“We are on the verge of launching a school of engineering,” said Fitzgerald, “After a hundred years we’re going to bring it back,” he added, being met with a thunderous applause from the audience.
This will actually be something of a re-opening for the school. USF maintained a school of engineering until the 1918, after most of the students and professors of the college were drafted into World War I a year prior.
That same year an influenza pandemic infected 500 million people worldwide including residents of San Francisco, impacting the number of students that could attend courses at the engineering school. Coupled with the decimated faculty numbers, the engineering program was terminated after a round of budget cuts that would save the university from financial ruin.
The old school of engineering used to be located south of lower campus on Hayes St. and was a part of the now defunct St. Ignatius College. To celebrate the university’s 60th anniversary in 1930, St. Ignatius College changed its name to the University of San Francisco. Something USF historian, Alan Ziajka, argues was sought by many alumni groups as well as by long-time San Francisco Mayor James Rolph Jr.
Among universities in the Bay Area, USF is currently in the minority when it comes to schools without an engineering program. UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and Santa Clara University all possess a school, department, or college of engineering.
“We will bring back engineering in a way which is ready for the 21st century and for the city of San Francisco, and for the Bay Area, and for the world,” said Fitzgerald, who plans to compete with other Bay Area schools for jobs amid a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation that attracts the best and brightest. Fitzgerald hopes the the new college will provide the tech industry “with ethical engineers, with a great sense of imagination, amazing leadership skills and the types of habits of the heart that will transform Silicon Valley into Silicon City.”
Not much else has been disclosed about the project since Fitzgerald’s announcement, including where the school of engineering will be located, what specific engineering degrees it would offer, and how the university plans to fund the program. USF administrators have explained that many questions about plans for school simply could not be answered this early on in the project.