A Practical Investment in Industry’s Future
The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) recently announced its support as a corporate sponsor for the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) Legacy Campaign for a Professor of the Practice.
In announcing the association’s $25,000 financial commitment to the Legacy Campaign, AFSA President Steve Muncy stated: “AFSA and its educational affiliate the Center for Life Safety Education (CLSE) have supported students majoring in University of Maryland’s FPE program for more than three decades through the Philip L. DeCamara Memorial Scholarships. As an association that was founded on the principles of providing quality education for the fire sprinkler industry, we are proud to continue our support in the development of future fire protection engineers by becoming a corporate sponsor in this important campaign. This is an investment in the future of our industry and our member companies.”
With the only ABET-accredited undergraduate fire protection engineering program in the world and one of three graduate programs in the United States, UMD’s FPE Department holds distinction as a leader in undergraduate fire protection engineering. This program, since its inception in 1956, has produced a number of notable fire protection industry leaders, including AFSA Vice President of Engineering & Technical Services Roland Huggins, P.E., and Jack Medovich, P.E., senior vice president of Fire & Life Safety America in Hanover, Maryland, and a member of the AFSA Board of Directors.
In recent years, the program’s classroom focus experienced a gradual shift, as newer professors came from research rather than the practical application side of the profession. As a result, the program also saw a smaller percentage of graduates seeking a career in the application of fire protection engineering principles in industry. Discussions about the need for a clinical, hands-on professor began several years ago, and the idea gained momentum after a 2011 visit by the ABET (Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology) accrediting committee noted the limited connection to the profession among the current full-time faculty. The endowed professor of the practice faculty position will ensure that the department’s curriculum includes applications in fire protection engineering and that the department continues to conduct applied research for industry.
James Milke, P.E., Ph.D., chair of the Fire Protection Engineering Department, explains: “This department has been recognized for many years for producing outstanding young engineers and more recently for the high quality of research we conduct. The professor of the practice will bring hands-on field experience to the undergraduate curriculum and will strengthen the school’s ties with industry.”
Although the campaign is still ongoing, financial support from A. James Clark School of Engineering Dean Darryll Pines enabled the hiring of the first endowed clinical professor, Kenneth E. Isman, P.E, last August. Isman is a 1986 graduate of the program. From 1987 to 2014, he was an engineer with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), where he ultimately rose to the position of vice president of engineering.
Milke notes that Isman is responsible for teaching courses in the applied aspects of the curriculum, including the design of fire protection systems.
Says AFSA’s Roland Huggins: “The addition of this clinical professor of the practice provides a better opportunity for UMD graduates to have a more realistic grasp of fire sprinkler details in their future engineering efforts. Ken has a great passion for teaching, and University of Maryland FPE students will benefit greatly from his in-depth understanding of fire protection systems.”
Adds Jack Medovich: “The FPE program at Maryland has always set the standard for creating valuable fire protection engineers for all disciplines within the fire protection industry. With the shift towards research over the past years, the quality of the graduates has not been helpful for those of us on the applied or practical side of the business. The hiring of Ken Isman will change this over the next few years. Ken is a born teacher. His knowledge and experience within our industry will create graduates who will be beneficial to all of us in the coming years. Kudos to the entire AFSA Board of Directors for recognizing this need and stepping up to the plate to assist the University of Maryland once again.”
For information on the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering or the Legacy Campaign, visit fpe.umd.edu or fpe.umd.edu/legacy-campaign.