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LeTourneau, Iowa State partner for master's degree

By Christina Lane
Jan. 13, 2017 at 10:59 p.m.

LeTourneau University student  Carolyn Hoyt uses a Rotovapor in the chemistry lab on Wednesday November 30, 2016. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Some LeTourneau University students will be able to earn a bachelor's degree in Longview and a master's degree from Iowa State University — all while receiving hands-on, practical experience at Eastman Chemical Co. in Longview.

An agreement signed Friday allows LeTourneau chemistry students to enter a graduate program at Iowa State to earn a master of chemical engineering degree, while receiving support and mentoring from corporate partner Eastman Chemical in Longview. The total program can be completed in five years instead of the typical six it otherwise would take, university officials said.

LeTourneau does not currently offer a chemical engineering degree. The new program opens to students in the fall.

"This partnership began mainly due to the value that Iowa State faculty saw in our students," said Larry Fraizer, dean of education, arts and sciences at LeTourneau University.

It started with Gary DeBoer, a chemistry professor at LeTourneau who would visit Iowa State in Ames during the summer. He took students with him to do research at the Ames National Laboratory, a government-owned, contractor-operated national labo-ratory of the U.S. Department of Energy that is on the campus.

"In the course of that, they began to meet Iowa State faculty. The faculty were impressed by the quality of our students and the quality of Dr. DeBoer's work," Frazier said. "The chemical engineering faculty at Iowa State were so impressed that they approached us to create an easier, more streamlined pathway from LeTourneau University to Iowa State, culminating in a master's of science in engineering."

University President Dale Lunsford said LeTourneau wanted to add another piece to the partnership, and that was with Eastman Chemical Co.

Core values

Lunsford on Friday talked about some of the university's core values — ingenuity, an accessible education and a strong connection to industry. Those values, which were central to LeTourneau when it opened as a technical institute 70 years ago, still are key to the university, and Lunsford noted the new partnership fulfills those values. It's an inventive idea that opens the doors to an accessible degree plan.

But the Eastman piece added the hands-on industrial connection that is important to the university.

"As we developed this partnership, we realized we needed input from industry, so we turned to our friends at Eastman," Lunsford said. "Their leadership met with our faculty and dean and agreed to join in an advisory and supportive role to help us ensure we are preparing chemical engineers who will flourish in a manufacturing setting. Their partnership will provide our students valuable, real-world insights into a career in chemical engineering."

Eastman will review the program's curriculum to help "make sure that the learning objectives we have in this program fit well with the realities of chemical engineering in that industrial setting," Lunsford said. Additionally, Eastman employees will serve as guest lecturers in LeTourneau classes and as mentors to students. It also will provide opportunities for internships and permit students and faculty to observe training at the company, especially in the area of industrial safety. Meanwhile, LeTourneau will connect faculty and student expertise to research projects that are of interest to Eastman.

"As our students are able to be immersed in that facility they will see, for example, the important role of industrial safety efforts that are a core value of Eastman Chemical," Lunsford said. "They're going to go out and be better chemical engineers for doing this."

'Great partnership'

Mark Bogle, general manager of Eastman's Longview operations, said his company has partnered with LeTourneau over the years in various programs, arranging internships and providing mentoring to students.

"It's been a great partnership for us, and we're particularly excited about this milestone today because if we look across our portfolio of engineering expertise that we need to run our business, chemical was really the only piece that LeTourneau was missing," Bogle said.

Friday's announcement helped fill in that gap.

"We're going to be able grow partnership with LeTourneau that now spans across all of the engineering disciplines that we depend on day in and day out to run our business," Bogle said.

Lunsford noted the new program addresses affordability and accessibility, allowing students to achieve a master's degree in a shorter time than normal — five years instead of six years. Iowa State is agreeing to accept LeTourneau students to transfer in and reverse-transfer graduate course credits to fulfill undergraduate degree requirements at LeTourneau — providing a type of dual credit for completion of graduate courses to apply toward undergraduate requirements.

"Over the years, if you look at the alumni of LeTourneau University, we have done an excellent job of making a great education accessible for all kinds of students," Lunsford said. "You see that in this program as well because there's great value here. For the young man or the young woman that has chosen a target of earning a master's degree in chemical engineering, this program will get them to that finish line quicker, with less dollars, and it will get them into the job market quicker."

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