Northwestern College to launch engineering program in 2024
Monday, May 8, 2023
Northwestern College has hired a distinguished engineering educator with experience in administration, teaching and research on three continents to develop a new undergraduate engineering program that is set to launch, following accreditor approval, in the fall of 2024.
Dr. Young-Ji Byon will begin his role as the founding director of Northwestern’s engineering program in July, casting its vision, structuring the curriculum, hiring faculty, designing classroom and lab spaces, leading accreditation processes, and providing oversight. Byon is the associate chair of the department of civil infrastructure and environmental engineering at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a top-100 engineering university. He helped launch the university’s civil engineering programs and led its efforts to secure ABET accreditation.
“Dr. Byon’s experience with instruction, program leadership and accreditation—together with an energetic, engaging personality and deep personal faith—makes him an ideal leader for this program,” says Dr. D. Nathan Phinney, Northwestern’s vice president for academic affairs. “Northwestern’s eagerly anticipated engineering program is an exciting expansion of our well-respected and nationally recognized science and technology programs, and we are grateful for God’s gracious providence in leading us to Dr. Byon.”
Northwestern’s program will offer a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. Engineering concentrations currently being considered include mechanical, civil, computer and electrical. The program will be designed to achieve ABET accreditation, for which it would be eligible upon graduation of the first cohort in 2028. Regulatory approval for the program is pending with the Higher Learning Commission.
Byon earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering at the University of Toronto. He completed postdoctoral research at the University of Calgary and the University of Chile. With a research focus of intelligent transportation systems—including connected and autonomous vehicles and deep learning-based traffic control—Byon has managed grants totaling $2.8 million and published more than 50 articles in internationally recognized journals. He received a faculty excellence award from Khalifa University in 2015 and was recognized in 2017 with a UAE national research award for sustainable transportation.
“I am honored to follow God’s calling to Northwestern,” says Byon. “I am excited about this opportunity to use my passion for Christian engineering education—along with research expertise and administrative skills—to help build a program that meets the growing demands of students and industry.
“Our vision is to be a Christ-centered engineering program that equips students with an excellent engineering foundation, creative and innovative minds, and hands-on experience with a missionary mindset so they will become ‘light and salt’ for Christ in the field of engineering.”
Northwestern’s new program will offer numerous hands-on learning experiences, such as 3D printing, wooden bridge building, machining, electric circuits, programming, geospatial analysis and traffic simulation. The program will collaborate with local and regional industries to launch a summer internship program.
The new major will build upon Northwestern’s existing pre-engineering program and collaborate with other programs in the natural and applied sciences division. Northwestern’s dual-degree partnership with Washington University in St. Louis will still be an option for students who seek to matriculate directly into a master’s program. Samantha Olson will graduate in May from Northwestern with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and biology-health professions in addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from WashU. She and two of her classmates recently won first place in a global health technologies design competition. Another 2023 Northwestern graduate, Daniel Nordquist, will enter WashU’s program this fall, pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.
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Set to launch in fall 2024, Northwestern's Christ-centered engineering program will equip students with a strong foundation in engineering while fostering student innovation and creativity. Engineering students will engage in numerous hands-on learning experiences both in labs on campus and in partnership with local and regional industries. The program's founding director, Dr. Young-Ji Byon, is a leading engineering educator with extensive teaching and research credentials, including launching ABET-accredited civil engineering programs at Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates.