Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Chair Unveils High Enrollment Strategies
Over the last couple of years, the value of a college degree has come into question. College and university enrollments decreased, and institutions were tasked with redesigning retention strategies. CSULB’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department is a prime example of what it means to beat the odds. The department experienced a significant increase in enrollment under Dr. Jalal Torabzadeh. A professor and MAE department chair, Dr. Torabzadeh managed the largest increase in student enrollment, quality of education, and value of the degrees offered in the department's history. Under his leadership, student headcount increased by 65% from 1,053 to 1,739 between 2012 and 2022.
After the Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering departments merged into the new MAE department in 2001, he served as the Mechanical Engineering program coordinator and associate chair. He facilitated the smooth transition of mechanical and aerospace engineering courses into MAE courses, managed necessary curriculum revisions, removed duplications, improved course scheduling to meet the needs of students, and enhanced departmental operations. In 2012, he was appointed interim chair. As interim chair, he felt it was his responsibility to create harmony and unity among faculty to enhance collegiality, cooperation, and efficiency to help attain student success. Whether students excelled intellectually or in a hands-on demonstration, Dr. Torabzadeh knew that there was much to be done to support future industry leaders. These strong objectives and passions led to his department chair election, an honor he led for years. Today, he still serves as the senior advisor for students and mentor for new faculty members.
Dr. Torabzadeh’s myriad of high enrollment strategies are deeply rooted in vision, meeting students’ needs, service, sustainability, equity, diversity, and inclusion. He utilized his learning while serving as a member of the CSULB Advisory Council on Strategic Enrollment Management for five years. He is committed to achieving the department’s mission of providing quality education, service, and delivering the solid theoretical foundation and practical basics to prepare students for successful engineering careers. As undergraduate advisor, he provided personal advice, career guidance, and motivation. He encouraged students to consider their personal and professional priorities.
He also established hands-on projects to further equip students for the job market. For instance, the department provides three rocket projects where students develop, design, fabricate, and launch rockets in the Mojave Desert under faculty supervision. They utilize their creations to compete with other universities at the regional, national, and international levels. Students build relationships and can network with faculty outside the classroom. He also helped establish seven student chapters of engineering professional societies to help with professional development and industry engagement. These activities have continued to stand strong in the last two decades.
Dr. Torabzadeh has also worked diligently to combat impacted courses and cater to students’ schedules by offering multiple sections of the same classes at various times. As a result, there has been no report of impacted classes, a goal the department has strived to meet in the last 10 years. Students have been able to complete their courses, graduate in a timely manner, and balance other life obligations.
Faculty and staff have also been instrumental in securing high enrollment. As department chair, Dr. Torabzadeh constructed the well-qualified and updated faculty that is continually active today.
“I’ve had the pleasure of hiring 12 new faculty members during my tenure as chair,” Dr. Torabzadeh says, “This is over 60% of the current faculty in the department. They are hired from the top 15 universities in the nation.”
A challenging feat, Dr. Torabzadeh’s selected faculty are highly dedicated to student success and following the department’s mission. He also brought along many full and part-time lecturers directly from the industry who bring many years of experience to classrooms. Dean Dr. Jinny Rhee has also been highly involved in supporting student success through outreach and fundraising. As a result, Dr. Torabzadeh has had an adroit and supportive team behind him. He stresses that the department’s high enrollment and retention are a team effort and the outcome of unity among colleagues.
Today, Dr. Torabzadeh’s enrollment strategies play a crucial role in his strategic planning at the university level. He holds a highly contributory role in Beach 2030 as one of its first members alongside Vice Provost Dr. Dhushy Sathianathan. He leads Beach 2030’s Advance Partnerships for Public Good initiative for the college, which aims to foster strategic partnerships with public, private, government, nonprofit organizations, and various industries. Dr. Torabzadeh’s team has successfully collaborated with aerospace companies. An initiative designated by Robert Garcia and Space Beach, students are given the opportunity to network with major employers like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX. These are the employers that go on to hire Beach graduates. Dr. Torabzadeh’s Beach 2030 efforts provide post-graduate job security from partnering companies, ensuring that success trickles into the next chapter of students’ lives.
Dr. Torabzadeh has broken barriers by providing an exceptional curriculum, degree programs, internships, and research and career opportunities. His provision of resources, networking opportunities, and strategic partnerships are all reminders that Beach students can attain success no matter where they come from. From theoretical learning to landing a career, the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department exhibits what it means intellectually, professionally, and emotionally serve our students.
For Dr. Torabzadeh, there are No Barriers to student success in the MAE Department.
To learn more about the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department’s initiatives, please visit their website.
To learn more about Dr. Torabzadeh, please see his presentation.