Category: Alumni and Friends

The ERE department thanks our alumni for their participation in the ERE 2017 alumni survey, used for a broad departmental self-study with the goal of continual improvement, which also informs our stakeholders including our ABET reviewers. With respect to ABET review, the ERE alumni survey is part of a set of activities that assess student performance and determine if the performance is below a defined threshold, which generates a trigger and initiates an action in response to the assessment.

The ERE program is committed to excellence in order to prepare students to have a maximum in improving the world. Here are ERE students at the Engineers without Borders fall 2017 picnic.

The ERE 2017 alumni survey data was completed in spring 2017, and it did result in an assessment trigger based on responses from the alumni who graduated as part of the 2010 to 2016 cohort. The performance metric for the alumni survey is a cohort score below 4.0, on a Likert scale explained below, when asked to rank their level of agreement with the statement about learning outcomes. The statement is, “After completing my degree with the ERE department I was able to …” followed by each of the 11, (a) to (k) learning outcomes; e.g., a) After completing my degree with the ERE department I was able to apply knowledge of math/science/engineering. Respondents could select from a Likert scale, which extends from 1 for Strongly Disagree to 5 for Strongly Agree. Cohorts based on graduation year were created to analyze the responses. The entire sample of ERE alumni survey responses contains 198 alumni who earned a B.S. (the ESF Alumni Office provided ERE with records for 1035 alumni, of whom 584 had valid email addresses). The graduation cohorts were: 64 graduated 1950 – 1989, 30 graduated 1990 – 1999, 35 graduated 2000 – 2009, and 69 graduated from 2010 – 2016. In the 2010 to 2016 cohort, 66 had graduated from the B.S. in ERE program, and 3 had graduated from the B.S. in forest engineering (FEG) program. Prior to 2010, all students had graduated from the B.S. in FEG program. All responses within each cohort were averaged for a cohort group score for each question, and there was one cohort group that scored one outcome below 4.0. The 2010 – 2016 cohort had a group score of 3.9 for the learning outcome (c), after completing their degree they were able to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.

The action taken in response to the ERE 2017 alumni survey was to place the trigger in context, as well as analyze the trigger response with respect to other data, and identify the next set of strategic actions. To place the trigger in context, the 2010 to 2016 cohort score of 3.9 for outcome (c), which involves design, is 0.1 points below the trigger threshold of 4. This is the smallest possible trigger, and may not justify changes in our program related to design. By comparison, the 3 graduation cohorts from 1950 to 2009 assigned scores of 4.2, 4.2, and 4.4 to learning outcome (c), with the 2000 to 2009 cohort having the highest score of 4.4. If you average the responses for outcome (c) of the 2 cohorts from 2000 to 2016, the cohort average score is approximately 4.2, which is above the 4.0 trigger and comparable with the 1950 to 1999 cohort average. This cohort averaging analysis suggests no further action on changes to design in the ERE curriculum is needed. Additional actions will be taken, however, given the alumni survey dataset is relatively rare, gathered approximately every 5 yrs, and can serve as a valuable trend indicator for each cohort. ERE is taking additional actions, which involve the ERE chair working with the ERE instructional support specialist who administered the survey to further examine alumni survey data and cross-compare with exit survey data. The action of examining alumni survey data will determine if, and by how much, the 2010 to 2016 cohort relative other cohorts have lower scores on the 10 other learning outcomes. This review may help us understand if in general learning outcomes were impacted during this 2010 to 2016 period, which corresponds to a time when the ERE department experienced an increase in student enrollment and a decrease in faculty, which could impact learning outcomes. The action of examining graduating senior exit survey data will allow us to corroborate cohort responses at graduation with those after graduation, and identify if alumni tend to hold different impressions of their achievement.

ERE also benefited from non-learning outcome data from the ERE 2017 alumni survey, which provide qualitative and quantitative information on professional activities and growth and help in the ERE self-study. Approximately half the alumni respondents are in New York State, with the other half representing 27 different states and 2 other countries. Approximately 66% of respondents are currently working in an engineering field, 21% are employed outside engineering, and 10% are retired. Of the 5 respondents (2.5%) who identified as unemployed, only one was currently seeking employment, which is a common labor market phenomenon due to transitions in life. Alumni respondents are professionally engaged, with 51% engineers-in-training and 41% registered Professor Engineers. Approximately 67% of alumni reported spending >10 hours per year in continuing education, with more than 50% spending 10–40 hours/year. Professional growth was interpreted from responses documenting half of the respondents are in supervisory roles: 27% supervising 1–5 staff, 12 % supervising 6–20 staff, and 12% supervising >20 staff.  The distribution of alumni by most recent employment sector is: 51% private or consulting, 19% state or federal agency, 11% regional or municipal government, 2% non-profit, 2% self-employed, 8% academic, 1% military, 6% other. Alumni survey responses to questions about employment documented the ERE alumni professional commitment and development. The distribution of alumni by most recent focus area is: 24% civil engineering, 27% environmental engineering, 15% water resources engineering, 3% geospatial engineering, 4% construction engineering, 15% not engineering, and the remainder in other categories. In summary, the ERE 2017 alumni survey documents a successful ERE program with talented, well-educated, and engaged ERE alumni.

We look forward to remaining in contact with our ERE alumni!


Mairead Rauch graduated from the ERE program in 2013. She then continued her journey of service, and social engineering. Mairead is currently a graduate student and Trinity Fellow at Marquette University, which enables students to advance justice and hope through service based scholarship. I had the pleasure of chatting with her at Mother’s Cupboard in Syracuse, and learned how Mairead had engineered a path of service to improve our world.

Mairead, 2nd from right, with her FrancisCorps friends.

Mairead, 2nd from right, with her FrancisCorps friends.

Here is how Mairead recounted her story. As a student in the ERE program Mairead was seeking a way to combine her faith with her talents in engineering in order to provide needed service to our community. Before graduation she earned a position with FrancisCorps, and during the summer after graduation Mairead began a year of service at Francis House, a hospice home run by the Sisters of Saint Francis. This involved community living and comforting the dying, their families, and working with other volunteers. Mairead was humbled to be part of this experience, and grateful for the insights she gained about herself and interpersonal relationships. Clearly, she also found that community living had some large challenges, but by perservering and weathering challenges, Mairead learned more about her own limits, needs, and gifts. The time at Francis House helped Mairead gain the perspectives of others, and as an engineer, this taught her a bit about how she could better meet the needs of older people and the sick.

After FrancisCorps, in September 2014, Mairead signed on to be a live-in assistant at L’Arche Syracuse. In this capacity, Mairead lived in a community house to share duties with three disabled adults. Over the course of that year, she had the honor of spending time with a core member in her last days, participated in the celebrations of those overcoming prior limits, and took part in the everyday joys and challenges of L’Arche life. Mairead highly recommends a year in L’Arche to anyone who wants to explore their faith life and build true friendships, regardless of your ultimate career goal.

Starting in late summer of 2015, Mairead will be in graduate school at Marquette University, funded as a Trinity Fellow. Her academic home is the Environmental Engineering program, which is small, but well-integrated into the general engineering department. In addition to her engineering classes, her Trinity Fellowship requires 3 special courses: Social Entrepreneurship, Nonprofit Organizations; The Nature of Cities, Urban Policy and Politics; and Social Justice, Social Activism. Mairead sees the classes as a good way to understand the scholarship of social engineering and prepare for service-oriented lives or careers.

In addition to classes, the Trinity Fellowship supports Mairead to conduct 20 hrs per week of service placement during the semester, and engage full-time in service during the summer. Mairead has a service placement with the Milwaukee Center for Independence, which works with disabled people of all ages. At the Center, Mairead will be the Family Partnership Coordinator. In this role, her task will be to develop relationships with the families of disabled children, trying to engineer the Center’s programs to best serve the family needs. Mairead understands this work may appear distant from the typical engineering work for an ERE graduate, and the work she may pursue after graduation from Marquette. Yet Mairead feels prepared to undertake and succeed in this wonderful challenge of service!

Sean Murphy, who earned his BS from the SUNY ESF ERE department, was the recipient of a Dow Sustainability Fellowship to work on alleviating health problems in Indian slums. Here is the beginning of one report by Sean, with a link to a blog site where you can read more …

“There is a never ending chatter of honks, horns, and beeps from vehicles declaring urgency or simply exchanging pleasantries as my teammates and I are shuttled through busy downtown streets, linked between daily meetings or chauffeured to a magnificent landmark in one of India’s iconic three-wheeled automatic rickshaws. Apprehensive from the overcrowded streets filled with impatient motorists and doubtful of the city’s traffic laws, I lean forward to study the world as it passes and am reminded there is method in the madness. There are children playing cricket in an open lot, merchants sprawled over the sidewalks selling art, clothing, and jewelry, and vendors waiting on corners with panipuri (fried bread filled with flavored water), pav bhaji (vegetable curry), ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) and other wonderfully aromatic snacks. Homes and shops wedged one on top of another, built of crude materials and standing awry like that of Seussian architecture, colonize much of the valued land. The skyline is sown with corporate and residential high-rises, though many are delayed in construction, windowless, and awaiting occupation.

Indian megacities face several unique challenges in providing even basic needs and services, notably housing, water, and waste management, for one of the largest and most dense populations in the world. Recently launched in 2014, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) is a government campaign and nationwide call to action for a cleaner, healthier, and safer India. The program’s goals are to improve solid waste management through proper disposal, reuse, and recycling, eliminate open defecation through construction of sanitation facilities, and generate public awareness through health education across all twenty-nine states. Achieving these ambitions will be complicated in an urban environment where core problems are magnified in scale, and particularly daunting in Mumbai, where half of the city’s population is estimated to live in slums.”

Read more at Slumdog Engineer.

Sean has completed his assignment, and is now working for the US Indian Health Service, working with Native American communities in South Dakota as they design technical and financial solutions to problems related to water and sanitation.

Chair Ted Endreny asked me to write an occasional piece for the departmental website. I’m pleased at the opportunity as this will allow me to keep in touch with the program and the many students and friends I’ve known over the years.

Some of you may remember that I’m fascinated by fluid flow on extraterrestrial  bodies, e.g., water on Mars and liquid methane on Titan. I have therefore followed with great interest the exploits of the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. I watched the launch on the web on November 26, 2011 and waited anxiously during the complex landing sequence in the early morning hours of August 6, 2012. I have been following the mission at the NASA website. I was especially intrigued by some early images that appeared to show an ancient fluvial channel (see the images). Other missions, especially the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found evidence of recent, short duration pulses of water flow emanating from crater rims (see for example).

Curiosity Rover searches for rivers on Mars and garners the pride of former ERE Chair Jim Hassett.

Curiosity Rover searches for rivers on Mars and garners the pride of former ERE Chair Jim Hassett.

I was always impressed by the robust combination of skills (fluid mechanics, mapping sciences, image processing) our ERE students used in the class projects we worked on, in both the terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments. It was a combination of skills that made our engineering program unique.

Evidence of an ancient river - the rocks are now part of a conglomerate but their rounded edges suggest they had tumbled along a river bed.

Evidence of an ancient river – the rocks are now part of a conglomerate but their rounded edges suggest they had tumbled along a river bed.

As you surely know, I’m retired now, living the good life. I’m curious (and I speak for Chair Ted Endreny and the other faculty members as well) as to how you’re doing. Send an email with news; my email address hasn’t changed. We’d be delighted to hear from you.