Department of Automotive Engineering set to confer its 1,000th degree


In August 2009, as the inaugural nine graduates of the Department of Automotive Engineering crossed the commencement stage, few could have envisioned the remarkable trajectory that lay ahead. Fast forward less than 15 years, and the department is on the brink of achieving a significant milestone at the December 2023 graduation ceremonies – the conferral of over 1,000 graduate degrees.

What started as a bold experiment has evolved into a thriving academic venture. The upcoming graduation will mark the culmination of a decade and a half of growth, with more than 900 students earning a Master of Science in Automotive Engineering and over 100 obtaining Ph.D.s in the same discipline.

As I look back to the day of stepping onto the CU-ICAR campus in 2006 (which was at the time simply a construction site), I take great pride in the team that has worked so hard to build this program and take it to this meaningful point. We have now put 1,000 of the best automotive engineers out into the world, fulfilling our goal of providing the top talent for making the U.S. economically competitive in this critical industry. As we stand now on the brink of our first bachelor’s program graduates next year, I can only imagine how we will leverage this success more broadly and in new, creative ways. I’m looking forward to the bright future of Automotive Engineering at Clemson!

Laine Mears, Chair, Department of Automotive Engineering

Back in the late 2000s, the department pioneered the granting of graduate degrees in automotive engineering, blazing a trail that has since established Clemson automotive engineering as a household name within and beyond the automotive industry. Known for consistently producing top-tier talent and conducting innovative research, the department has become synonymous with excellence.

Building on this trailblazing spirit, the department recently unveiled another groundbreaking initiative – the nation’s first Bachelor of Science program in automotive engineering, introduced earlier this year. Surpassing the milestone of over 1,000 graduate degrees underscores the visionary leadership of the department, the exceptional caliber of its students, and the unwavering commitment of its staff and faculty.

“Starting in 2007 as part of the inaugural class at CU-ICAR, we embarked on a bold and new journey fueled by a thirst for knowledge and a deep passion for vehicles and the industry behind them.  Witnessing the program reach the incredible milestone of 1,000 graduates fills me with immense pride. It’s a testament to the program’s enduring relevance and the dedication of its faculty and staff. I have no doubt that the next 1,000 graduates will continue to shape the future of the automotive industry.”

Philip Kingsbury M ’09, Production System Manager, BMW
and Member of the First Graduating Cohort

December 2012 -The county’s first woman to receive a Ph.D. in automotive engineering was Ala Qattawi. She was later recognized with the department’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2023.
May 2023 – Presley Ihezue completes his MS in Automotive Engineering. As a student, Presley was recognized as an Associate GEM Fellow in the GEM National Consortium and also received the SMART Scholarship from the Department of Defense. Presley now serves as an Automotive Engineer with the U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center. Read more: Presley Ihezue finds ‘sense of honor’ in work with U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center
August 2009 – Some of the department’s first graduates.
2006 – Professors Laine Mears, Beshah Ayalew, and Pierluigi Pisu survey the ongoing construction of the new CU-ICAR Campus in Greenville, SC. These individuals helped develop the initial curriculum and launch the Automotive Engineering program, and Dr. Mears now serves as Department Chair.
2019 – New AVX Mobility Systems Innovation Lab is opened. Read more: AVX fuels next generation of Clemson vehicle prototyping through Deep Orange
2018 – President Clements and then BMW Manufacturing president, Knudt Flor, celebrate the unveiling of the new the Clemson Vehicle Assembly Center at CU-ICAR (joined by center founder, Dr. Laine Mears). Read More: Clemson Vehicle Assembly Center Unveiled
2023 – The Tiger and CU Libraries Dean Christopher Cox celebrate the grand opening of the new CU-ICAR Library
President Clements takes Deep Orange 9, the student-designed and built next-gen rallycross vehicle, for a spin.
Deep Orange 12 (high-speed driverless race car)
August 2019 – Automotive Engineering students celebrate graduation outside of Littlejohn Colliseum.
January 2024: Automotive Engineering students enjoy showing off their hard work (Deep Orange 11) at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
August 2023 – The country’s first and only bachelor’s degree in Automotive Engineering program launches (pictured – the first cohort celebrating their first day of class of the new program).
October 2022 – Governor Henry McMaster checks out Deep Orange 10 while attending the Electric Vehicle Summit at CU-ICAR. Read more.
August 2023 – Automotive Engineering hosts its 2nd annual Supercharged Saturday car show, which had over 500 participants and spectators.
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