Live Connections: The Hesston College School of Engineering

Physics and robotics illustration

Hesston College has a long tradition of graduating high-achieving engineers. Now those alumni have a place to call home: the Hesston College School of Engineering.

The School of Engineering is overseen by Johann Reimer, director of engineering education, and Dr. Joel Krehbiel, professor of physics and engineering. The School of Engineering is a core component of Vision 2025. Reimer joined Hesston College as a faculty member in 2020 and has spearheaded the effort to gain approval for the bachelor’s degree track by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Hesston’s primary accrediting body. HLC granted approval in fall of 2021.

With approval in hand, the college got to work. Renovations are underway at Friesen Center, the future home of the School of Engineering which will focus on mechatronics. Classrooms have been given a fresh coat of paint and expanded, and soon the space that currently houses potting wheels and work tables for ceramics will become a robotics lab.

But for now, it’s the eastmost classrooms in Charles Hall that are crowded with tables and shelves of mechanical parts and wire. Atop a counter behind the podium, a 3D printer hums.

Even as new technology finds its way into Hesston College classrooms, Reimer and Krehbiel express gratitude for the engineering classes of the past.

Dr. Joel Krehbiel
Dr. Joel Krehbiel
“For a long time, Hesston College has supported engineering and pre-engineering,” Krehbiel said. “[Emeritus professor] Nelson Kilmer taught Statics, which is a basic engineering class. There was an electronics track in the 1990s that worked around building up students’ circuits knowledge. Playing around with volt meters, function generators, that sort of thing.”

The ground prepared by decades of pre-engineering instruction is rich. Though the School of Engineering and its accompanying bachelor’s degree is new to Hesston College, it’s already growing. “Every single semester has been very, very different,” said Reimer. “I’m going from being an individual contributor to having two direct reports.”

As for the future, Reimer and Krehbiel share a vision of a robust learning community built on a foundation of opportunity.

“I’m envisioning we’ll have a significant junior and senior class in a few years, and those juniors and seniors will start motivating the freshmen and sophomores to complete interesting projects or to join Robotics Club,” said Krehbiel. “Those are the fun things I see: We’ve got partnerships built up with industry partners; we’re offering internships locally and across the country. Those types of opportunities get students excited about the program.”

Johann Reimer
Johann Reimer
“Three years from now the plan is to have the right people in the right roles with the equipment they need to be successful,” Reimer added. “If we can do that, our belief in our competence is such that if we get a student in the classroom—be they a first-time freshman, a transfer student, maybe even a visiting prospective student—they will be able to see the vision we have for the program.”

Reimer and Krehbiel know that alumni support is key to the success of the School of Engineering. “If you’re a friend or alum working in the industry, we would love to find ways to connect you with our current students,” said Reimer. “You could help them get an internship. You could help think through where to apply for a job. You could also just speak with them periodically so they can see what being an engineer is like.”

“And of course, donations and other kinds of financial support are always helpful.”

“One thing I’d say as a blanket statement for all our alumni,” Krehbiel added. “If you know a junior or senior in high school that might be interested in engineering, encourage them to consider Hesston College.”