The challenge of starting up a joint engineering program at two partner universities—which had been approved merely months before—was no small matter. The first incoming class of 35 students from FAMU and FSU in August 1982 was tossed about in the complexity of unchartered waters. The curricula had been established and experienced professors from departments at both schools were teaching courses, but the location for classes was another issue. With no unified calendar and classes spread out over both campuses, the hardship for students was inevitable.
“At times, we felt like homeless students because we were always changing class location. We had classes in the math building, the physics building and even the nursing building. Sometimes, I had morning classes at FAMU and afternoon classes at FSU.”
—Tom Ballenger, a graduate of the first engineering class (BS ME, 1985, fsu)
Kenny Dozier was in one of the first waves of students from the college when he graduated in 1987. He earned his bachelor’s degree at FAMU and was the first graduate from the university with a degree in chemical engineering. Dozier came to FAMU as a transfer student in January 1984. He was away from home and didn’t know anyone in Florida, much less at FAMU. But things soon fell in place when he discovered engineering.
“In 1984 at the start of the joint college, we had no designated building and mostly met at FSU for chemical engineering classes. Our labs were at FSU also, even though I was a FAMU student. There were a total of six of us between both schools. We were close. We helped each other learn although we felt somewhat isolated from the universities because no one was familiar with our majors.”
—Kenny Dozier, the first graduate of the college in chemical engineering from famu (bs ChE, 1987, FAMU)
Student transportation issues, limited faculty office space and other challenges plagued the young institution. But the students and the faculty were committed to making it work. FSU housed most of the mechanical and chemical engineering courses, while FAMU provided most of the courses in electrical and civil engineering, which created a division in the joint college. George Buzyna recalled that this issue caused the misconception that certain degrees were only offered by one university or the other, and he remembers a lack of mechanical engineering students from FAMU.
“The program would not be cohesive until the new building was built.”
—George Buzyna, engineering faculty member
Finding the perfect location proved to be difficult with differing input from the university presidents, faculty and the legislature. While both presidents had a vested interest in the success of the program, they also felt the need to protect the interests of their own students. Neither was willing to concede to a site too close to the other campus. Finally, in 1985 after many proposed and rejected sites, President Bernie Sliger, President Fred Humphries and Chancellor Charles Reed drove to Innovation Park and agreed upon the current site adjacent to the park. Funding was secured under the leadership of Rep. Herb Morgan and groundbreaking officially occurred on May 29, 1986 for Building A.
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