Cal State Bakersfield deans and Chevron Corp. executives talked plans to expand the CSUB engineering program Friday at a press conference to celebrate the university's largest corporate donation.
Students and professors joined Chevron and CSUB leaders in the Walter W. Stiern Library to officially announce Chevron's donation of $2.1 million to CSUB in 2013.
It is the largest corporate donation in the university's history, topped only by an individual donation -- $3 million from the Dolores F. Cerro Trust in 2006.
CSUB announced Wednesday that the largest portion of the $2.1 million donation -- $1 million -- will fund equipment purchases for the engineering department, which includes the newly added petroleum engineering concentration (the first of its kind in the region). They delved into more detail Friday.
"It gives us the ability to have in Bakersfield a program in petroleum engineering that students couldn't get before," said Horace Mitchell, CSUB president.
Anne Houtman, dean of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, said engineering degrees represent 30 percent of bachelor's degrees in China but only 3 percent of degrees in the United States.
"The science and engineering pipeline in the United States is broken," she said.
She said in Bakersfield -- a city that Forbes Magazine recently dubbed one of the top cities poised for innovation given its per capita number of engineers -- every one of those engineers had been educated outside of the city at some point.
CSUB, faced with a reduced state budget, has been slow to expand its engineering program. Houtman said the university has to rely on companies such as Chevron to fill the gap in funding.
"The state was not stepping up to the plate," she said.
CSUB has three engineering options in electrical, science and computer engineering. Professors and students said expanding offerings to allow more tailored concentrations will mean greater equipment and lab needs.
Wei Li, a CSUB engineering professor, said the school has a power system to teach electrical machinery and energy conversion but not the proper lab to operate it. He said the school also needs to upgrade computers.
Houtman said while the university recognizes its priority to educate college students, it also needs to reach younger students.
"We all understand, and obviously Chevron does, too, that you don't make an engineer starting at age 18," she said. "You don't make a mathematician starting at age 18."
Houtman said the school is hoping to develop ongoing programs to reach students as early as pre-K.
She talked about the impact of early education on preparation for college and listed the risks that come with not preparing students early for technical fields, not introducing science and engineering as fun fields.
"If they don't realize that before they get to a university, it's not going to happen. In fact, they might not get to university."