- Associated Press - Monday, April 7, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Kevin Dubbins was the kid who always took things apart. He couldn’t help himself.

If he found something around the house that was broken, say a TV or boom box, he tried to fix it. If he couldn’t make the repairs, he’d repurpose the parts for something else. Dubbins once dismantled a burned-out microwave for the sheer joy of seeing it in pieces.

In high school, he discovered engineering classes and suddenly, all those years of taking things apart came together.

“I’ve always enjoyed building things and solving problems,” Dubbins told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/1hN5EPx).

In May, Dubbins, 21, of Aurora, Ill., will graduate from the University of Iowa's College of Engineering with a degree in mechanical engineering - and a job as an associate in the mechanical engineering department at Union Pacific in De Soto, Mo., awaits. His starting salary: well over $60,000.

The best part is Dubbins isn’t alone.

In the past 10 years, UI’s College of Engineering has grown 70 percent - 30 percent in the past four years alone. Of those graduating, 98 percent leave school with jobs that have a median starting salary of more than $60,000.

Even when the economy tanked in 2008, UI engineering students still graduated with well-paying jobs already lined up. And the demand for engineers of all kinds continues to grow.

“Certainly there is interest in engineering because of the tremendous opportunity for a career that an engineering education provides,” said Alec Scranton, dean of UI’s College of Engineering. “It’s certainly related to (Gov. Terry Branstad’s) STEM initiative to encourage middle school and high school students to consider careers in STEM fields.”

But faculty and students at the college say it is something more.

“We are different than a lot of other places, certainly the stereotypical engineering school,” said Jane Dorman, director of admissions and first-year student experience at UI’s College of Engineering. “We call it, ‘Engineering and something more.’ UI is a big liberal arts school, and we like to encourage our students to do other things besides engineering.

“They meet other people, enrich their college experience and, ultimately, they are more marketable to employers because they are well-rounded and have very good communications skills,” she said.

Scranton said about 72 percent of Iowans who graduate from the College of Engineering stay in in the state, while about 36 percent of non-residents make Iowa their home. More than 120 UI College of Engineering graduates are presidents, CEOs, founders or owners of Iowa companies. The list includes Kelly Ortberg, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids; Kelly Coffied, president of Cobham Life Support Systems in Davenport; and Isadore “Rocky” Rocklin, founder of Rocklin Manufacturing in Sioux City.

While the engineering college is riding an upswing in enrollment, it also is experiencing some growing pains.

Scranton said the most recent addition to the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences building was about 15 years ago. The Iowa state Board of Regents has approved the development of a conceptual plan for an estimated 65,000-square-foot addition, but another approval is needed before the project moves to the planning stage.

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