Mechanical Engineering Policy and Guidelines for Elective Focus Areas (EFAs)

Policy and Guidelines for Elective Focus Areas (EFAs)

The Elective Focus Area (EFA) is a set of 21 semester hours (sh) of elective courses taken during the sophomore to senior years that provide undergraduate students in the MIE department with a unique opportunity to acquire advanced education in an area of their choice. EFAs are not only intended to spark the interest of students in a specialty, but they can also make a student more attractive to future employers.

An EFA must be rigorous, well focused, in-depth, and consistent with a student's career plan. A collection of lower level courses in a number of disparate areas will not satisfy this EFA requirement. Consequently, approval of a student's EFA by the department is generally required. A Plan of Study form, described in greater detail below, facilitates the process of choosing and obtaining approval for the EFA courses.

In order to maintain some technical rigor and depth, EFAs must contain at least 9 sh of upper (100) level College of Engineering courses. However, this requirement may be waived if the EFA consists of an in-depth program in mathematics, computer science, the physical sciences, or the natural/health sciences, with an equivalent component of upper (100) level courses.  This requirement is also waived if an official UI Minor or UI Certificate Program is completed.

Due to program accreditation issues, at least 3 sh of courses must be mathematics or basic sciences courses (as defined by ABET) in a different area or at a more advanced level than those required in the regular curriculum.

Students are urged to integrate their EFA with internships or cooperative education experiences they may be taking as part of their undergraduate studies. Furthermore, an EFA may be complemented by courses taken as part of the General Education Component (GEC) requirement. If a focus in the humanities or social sciences is desired in an EFA, up to 12 sh of GEC courses should be used. The remaining balance of EFA courses may be used as technical electives or toward a second focus area, consistent with the above EFA requirements.

There are two types of EFAs:

  • Standard EFAs (S-EFA) are programs that are designed and pre-approved by the department. Currently offered S-EFAs in MIE are Energy & Enviromnent, Manufacturing and Materials Processing, and Mechanical Engineering Design; they are periodically reviewed by the department. Descriptions of each S-EFA can be obtained from the departmental web site or office. Each S-EFA has a faculty member as a coordinator who can advise a student in more detail.
  • Tailored EFAs (T-EFA) are individualized and career specific programs designed by the student and approved by the department.

The Plan of Study facilitates the process of choosing and obtaining approval for the courses for the EFA. During the first academic year on campus, all undergraduate students consult with their advisor and begin to develop a tentative Plan of Study. The Plan of Study is further finalized during the third semester. The Sophomore Seminar (third semester) is used to explain EFA choices. The Plan of Study:

  • identifies the career goal;
  • identifies the courses to be taken as the 21 sh of EFA electives;
  • presents the rationale for how the electives support the career goal; the student should provide any necessary supporting material;
  • is signed by the student and the advisor; if a student is pursuing a T-EFA or deviating from the approved courses for an S-EFA, the Plan of Study must also be approved by the department chair;
  • must be completed in advance of taking any EFA courses;
  • is placed in the student's official file;
  • may be altered at any time during the undergraduate program; any changes must be approved by completing a new Plan of Study.