Dr. Kevin Murphy on Growth in Mechanical Engineering

Headshot of Dr. Kevin MurphyOver the last decade, the department of Mechanical Engineering has experienced a robust growth, manifested yearly as a steady uptick in undergraduate students. As of the 2016 Fall semester, the department has approximately 650 students enrolled, an increase of almost two hundred in the interim decade. Between the continued expansion in students and the recent loss of two professors, Dr. Bill Hnat and Dr. Matt Bohm last year, the ME department is currently hosting three concurrent job searches, two intended to refill vacant positions, and an additional hire to keep pace with an advancing constituency.

Dr. Kevin Murphy, the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, believes there are a number of reasons to their continued growth.

“I would attribute our growth to the undergraduate enrollment. The undergraduate growth is driven both by a recognition that great stuff is going on. There has been great growth in the Commonwealth. People recognize that they can get jobs. That kind of growth has been happening nationwide. There has been incredible growth in the Speed School and I think that reputation has been growing. We provide an excellent education for the dollar. We really do have outstanding faculty who teach really well,” says Dr. Murphy.

In light of the recent hiring frost at the university, Interim Dean Usher understands the balance between budget and growth. He explains, “In order to meet student demand, the ME faculty (as well as other faculty at Speed) are teaching more sections and seeing larger class sizes than ever before. Unfortunately, this growth in demand is hitting at the same time as the overall budget cutbacks at UofL. This has caused us to take a more conservative approach toward adding faculty in any of our eight departments, including ME, until we know more about our future budgets and our ability to grow the faculty.”

Usher adds optimistically, “However, I remain extremely confident that Speed School will be able to fund ME sufficiently to ensure a well-staffed faculty base that can deliver a high-quality experience for their Speed School students. We are working closely with the department leadership to look at how we can best add faculty in strategic ways to meet the increased demand while staying within budget constraints.”

So far, the hiring process has been robust, with a number of promising candidates visiting the university. Ultimately, the goal is not only to refill existing positions, but to build on the success of the Department. Part of that process is finding someone who is not only capable in their respective niche studies, but in locating a potential colleague who wants to grow the ME culture going forward.

“We’ve had some outstanding candidates come through. We’ve got a number of additional people coming in that are also, outstanding candidates. I think they’re well positioned to make some outstanding hires. These people are positioned to contribute meaningful to the growth and development. When we look at people, we’re really looking at the person. At the end of the day, we’re about generating ideas and generating students. Getting good people to do that is really important.”