The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Focusing on STEM
SNHU to open new tech college

By Ryan Lessard

Southern New Hampshire University is creating a STEM-focused college using programs, students and staff from Daniel Webster College as a starting point.
The College of Engineering, Technology and Aeronautics, or CETA, will be fully up and running by 2020, according to SNHU President Paul LeBlanc. There will be a new building on campus that’s estimated to cost about $40 million to construct plus another $7 million to refit a former C.B. Sullivan building acquired from a recent purchase of property adjacent to the campus. 
The C.B. Sullivan building will serve as an ancillary building to the college and house a new Challenger Learning Center for local K-12 students to expose youngsters to the useful sciences in fun and engaging ways. The learning center will be created by the Challenger Center for Space Education, which was founded by family members of those who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
“They wanted something that would inspire kids the way their family members had been inspired to do STEM,” LeBlanc said.
All of this is made possible by SNHU’s deal to “teach-out” students at Daniel Webster College that allows current students to finish the 2016-2017 school year amid the closure of ITT Educational Services campuses nationwide. ITT bought DWC in 2009.
LeBlanc said when ITT’s impending closure was announced, due in part to a crackdown by the U.S. Department of Education on alleged predatory practices by for-profit colleges, SNHU was asked by the DOE to do the teach-out.
“They were hoping to treat Daniel Webster College differently,” LeBlanc said. “They saw Daniel Webster as sort of a good player, trying to do good work, had been a not-for-profit, was acquired by ITT, and asked if we would be interested in helping out.”
Now, as they near graduation, LeBlanc said SNHU will absorb an estimated 200 students from DWC, as well as 17 faculty and staff and about five key programs such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering and more.
Three phases
LeBlanc characterizes the teach-out as “Phase 1” of CETA’s creation. Post-graduation, as students and teachers pivot to continue their studies at the SNHU campus, the school enters Phase 2.
Ultimately, Phase 3 will be the full buildout in 2020. In addition to the physical construction, SNHU is currently making hires to lead the college and will figure out ways to alter the programs with some of the modern twists SNHU is known for.
“We hope, in September of 2020, to launch the same programs but in new sort of innovative models, models that use much more project-based learning that have much more direct links to industry, much more extensive use of workplace learning, online components, competency-based education, etc.,” LeBlanc said.
Right now, the school is looking into ways to incorporate augmented reality for online engineering courses as well as a program that allows students to remotely control physical lab equipment.
The construction will be paid for partly by the enrollment of existing and incoming students in the CETA programs, SNHU’s financial reserves and loans, according to LeBlanc.
Access mission
LeBlanc has long wanted to offer engineering programs at SNHU. Daniel Webster has proven his way into that and aeronautical sciences as well. LeBlanc said he’s currently in talks to try to keep a portion of the DWC campus, which has an airfield, hangar and airplane used for studies.
It’s his hope that CETA will expand on the the Daniel Webster programs to include things like robotics and drones.
“We’re looking at the world of unmanned aviation, obviously with both the mechanical engineering program and the aeronautical engineering program,” LeBlanc said.
Central to this move is an effort to bolster the workforce pipeline in the much-needed STEM fields and also to ensure more access to women and minorities, who currently are underrepresented. According to LeBlanc, 13 percent of all engineering degrees are awarded to women and 25 percent to minorities. Meanwhile, there are more than 1,200 engineering jobs open in New Hampshire alone, according to
And to make sure more low-income folks have access, LeBlanc said, they’re thinking about offering more than just bachelor’s degrees. He’s planning to offer associate programs well as micro-credentials that people can earn with little expense. The thinking goes that with those micro-credentials, they can then obtain a better-paying job and afford a higher level of education. 

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