SLAC with Strong STEM?

I have a son interested in Engineering, but not wanting a huge school and I am concerned he may start Engineering and not like it. I am trying to encourage him to consider some SLAC. Do you know any SLACs that are particularly strong in STEM or have large departments. He does not want to choose a major at a SLAC that is an afterthought.

Wesleyan has a fairly deep “life sciences” grouping of biology, chemistry, and molecular biology/biochem (mbbc) that supports work through the doctoral level. Same thing for math and physics.

Swarthmore offers a B.A. in engineering, (but this should not be confused with a bachelor in engineering. The OP probably knows the difference.)

Amherst has a shiny new science building that would probably be fun to work in.

Others worth looking into might include Haverford for biology, Hamilton for physics, Williams for math. And, of course there’s always Harvey Mudd.

How about Bucknell, Lafayette, or Union? All have between 2000 and 4000 students and all offer engineering as well as other strong STEM majors… Lehigh is another possibility but somewhat larger at 5000+ students.

Engineering or other STEM - the answer may differ.

Mudd, Bucknell, Lafayette immediately come to mind for Engineering.

Mudd, Williams, Pomona for Math.

Williams also has strong comp sci, bio, physics and chem, fairly large departments and course offerings in comparison to the other LACs. Math department has consistently won several national teaching awards.

If I am understanding you correctly.

There small engineering focused schools:


Colorado School of Mines
Michigan Technological University
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Montana Tech of the University of Montana
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
various Maritime Academies (ship focused)


California Institute of Technology
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (aerospace focused)
Florida Institute of Technology
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Harvey Mudd College
Illinois Institute of Technology
Kettering University
Lawrence Technological University
Milwaukee School of Engineering
Rose Hulman Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology
Webb Institute (naval architecture only)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

That list is helpful to me @ucbalumnus Thanks.

I agree with those who suggested Union, Hamilton, and Lafayette.

In addition to schools already mentioned, Trinity College (CT) offers engineering.

Not quite sure I understand this: DS got a B.S. in engineering from Swarthmore, not a B.A. It’s typically a small group–about 30 in freshman year goes down to mid-teens by graduation. It’s an ABET-certified program.

Although some colleges offer both non-ABET-accredited and ABET-accredited engineering majors (e.g. Dartmouth, Brown), Swarthmore offers only an ABET accredited engineering major.

You are correct. Swarthmore awards a B.S. not a B.A. in engineering. And, it is ABET approved. Nevertheless, as I understand it, it is not the same undergraduate degree one would get typically after 3 or 4 years of study at a Michigan or a Cornell, a B.E. or B.Eng., with specialties in electrical, civil or mechanical engineering. Swarthmore is very careful to thread the needle in terms of what kinds of jobs its engineering graduates would be qualified to take without further advanced coursework.

Dartmouth, OTOH, does offer a B.A. in engineering but also offers a B.E with the completion of a fifth year. The Dartmouth B.E. is also available to participating LACs as part of a dual degree program:

Often a large portion of the freshman year engineering curriculum consists of foundation math and science courses. Or at least there are a number of schools that can be selected where this is the case. If he starts in engineering and doesn’t like it, he can probably transfer to an arts & sciences college and get credit for most of the courses he took in the engineering college. Because math and sciences are also taught in arts & sciences colleges.

I actually did this, in fact, many, many years ago.

But if he starts this way and likes it, then he can go on to take the full curriculum and advanced courses in his field, and that way his engineering education will not be short-changed.

The smaller programs will offer some subset of “engineering”, but with fewer subareas covered, fewer upper level and graduate level courses, fewer sections of core courses, etc. Often they don’t give degrees in the main specialty areas (eg civil, electrical, mechanical) which the big employers in my day expected, because they hired directly into their particular departments of like name (civil, electrical, mechanical). Which is not to say they can’t get jobs.

Michigan engineering bachelor’s degree titles are BSE, and Cornell engineering bachelor’s degree titles are BS.

Degree title really does not make much of a difference*, except within a given school if it offers different versions of the same major (as Dartmouth engineering does).

The main difference at Swarthmore is that engineering is a single general engineering major, where elective choices can be used to focus on different kinds of engineering, rather than separate majors for each kind of engineering.

*It does appear that some people perceive a difference between a BA and a BS in the same major at different schools, even though any differences are really based on the different schools and their departments having different degree requirements and courses.

If Texas is a possibility, Trinity University in San Antonio has an ABET-accredited engineering program (as well as all the regular LAC courses) and a gorgeous new Center for the Sciences and Innovation building that they are very proud of.

There’s a trade-off between the intimacy offered by a small school and the variety that a larger school can offer. A small LAC that aim to offer a broad liberal arts education to mainly undergraduate students can’t offer the specialties in engineering by necessity. Even Harvey Mudd, a STEM-focused LAC, can only offer general engineering. For a college to provide a specialty in a certain field, it must attract faculty in that field. The cost would be too high unless it can offset the cost with research. For most researches in STEM (especially engineering), a professor can’t do the research by him-/herself. He/she needs the assistance from graduate students (and postdocs). LACs, by definition, don’t have those programs. If your student prefers a smaller school, but not necessarily an LAC, then I’d suggest you expand your search to include some of colleges on the list @ucbalumnus provided in post #6.

Another consideration - one of the best parts of my D’s first year educational experience was her engineering design class. It truly gave her a taste of what “real” engineering is about. For a student who is still undecided, this can be a very important class. Better to know year 1 if engineering is for you or not, than later when changing major could mean an extra year of tuition. Not all schools offer a hands on class first year.

I imagine most engineering programs offer some sort of “introduction to engineering” course or courses during freshman year. I recall the one I took had overviews of the various fields during lecture, and also featured a group design project. No idea what they do now. But the content, emphasis and effectiveness of these courses probably varies considerably. Not just institutionally, but depending on who specifically is teaching it.

Also IMO in some cases the learning value from such design project might be tempered to an extent by the fact that freshmen don’t know anything yet. I would think that the overview lectures highlighting the various sub-disciplines and activities of the broader engineering field might be equally or more important, at this stage. At least at those schools where students haven’t already elected, and been admitted directly into, a specific engineering sub-discipline from the get-go. Probably a mix is best. At schools with direct admission into a sub-discipline I guess the design component could be more prominent and emphasized. Because for them overview is less pertinent because they’ve already selected a sub-discipline from the get-go.

But how this is handled might well vary considerably, and is legitimately something one can investigate and review, and develop preferences about, during the college hunt.

But in any event keep in mind this is just one or two courses. At a pivotal time perhaps. But a school could have a great intro engineering sequence, but then very few upper level courses in the subdisciplines. Or interests can change for other reasons. I recall a relative of mine had a great freshman engineering group design project. Despite it having absolutely nothing to do with chemical engineering, it did not dampen his interest in the field at all. But what did was later on, when he struggled through organic chemistry and some of the other core courses.

May I suggest Case Western Reserve University…formed from the merging of a LAC (Western Reserve College) and a STEM School (Case Institute of Technology). It has about 5000 undergrads and also has a Single-door admissions policy…so if you say you want to do Engineering and then move to Business, you can do that without having to apply to the Business School.