Monday, March 22, 2010

Webb Institute

America’s College of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
By Jay Carson

Webb Institute, the only college in the United States devoted solely to naval architecture and marine engineering since its founding in 1894, is an accredited college like no other. All students receive full tuition scholarships, and work in the field each of the four winter terms.

Webb graduates receive a Bachelors of Science degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, which combines elements of mechanical, structural, electrical, chemical and systems engineering. The quality of education offered at Webb is reflected in the comprehensive academic load, which includes 146 credit hours of classroom education, 2 design projects that illustrate both a small ship and a large ship design process, and a rigorous senior thesis that hones research, analytical and presentation skills. Development of in-depth engineering, math and science skills is balanced by course work in history, literature, arts, philosophy and communications, anchored by the John J. McMullen Chair of Humanities. Leadership training through a grant from Crowley Maritime Corporation develops interpersonal skills needed for success in project management and business. Webb Institute is fully accredited by ABET and Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Webb alumni have been known for decades for their practical and theoretical understanding of design and engineering principles. In large part this comes from the Winter Work internship program required of all students. First semester ends in mid-December, and second semester starts in late February or early March. During the intervening period, freshmen work in a shipyard and sophomores serve as cadet/observers aboard a vessel at sea, while juniors and seniors work in a technical office or research environment. Students earn money during all of these assignments. Winter Work often leads to a position after graduation, and professional interests are established that may last a career. Winter Work assignments take students around the globe, with some professional experiences occurring this year as far afield as Shanghai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

The small size of Webb Institute leads to a culture that is unique. Webb’s student body numbers fewer than 100 students, selected through a highly competitive admission process. Students come from across the United States, and the admission of a limited number of qualified students from abroad is contemplated in the near term. Webb has a student faculty ratio better than 9 to 1 – far better than any other American college.

Webb students are taught and graded exclusively by faculty members who are readily available to answer questions and meet with students individually. There are no teaching assistants, and undergraduate education is the principal professional endeavor of each member of the faculty.

All students at Webb Institute live and study together, providing a group-learning environment. Projects are set up not only to teach engineering skills, but also to develop teamwork. The Webb experience is intense, requiring hard work over long periods, and team efforts are vital to success in this environment, similar to the workplace. Tenacity and the ability to work hard and effectively are attributes that have distinguished Webb graduates for decades.

Student life is governed by an Honor Code developed and administered by the Student Organization. As a result, Webb students learn and practice a high degree of academic and personal integrity that carries over to the workplace after graduation.

While academic excellence is the principal focus of Webb, the experience is not all studies. Sixty five percent of Webb students regularly participate in extra-curricular athletic activities. Webb is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association, and the Sailing Team competes both at home and away. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis and cross-country sports are other team activities. Webb also participates in the Hudson Valley Men’s Athletic Conference. Due to Webb’s small size, athletic teams are often co-ed. Individual student fitness is encouraged by free memberships in the excellent local YMCA located a few miles from the school.

Cultural extra-curricular activities include a choral society (the WOOFS) and the Webb Players. Students that play instruments may continue their musical development with the North Shore Symphony Orchestra. Course work includes field trips to museums, opera, theater and ballet in New York City, within an hour of Glen Cove.

Webb’s campus is located at the 26 acre former waterfront home of Herbert L. Pratt on the shores of Long Island Sound in Glen Cove, New York. Classrooms are located in the main building, Stevenson Taylor Hall. Most students also live in this building, which was the Pratt home. The Gymnasium, Labs, Workshops and Sailing Club are also located on campus. Webb has a Model Basin and model fabrication facility for direct hands-on measurement of ship and yacht resistance. This is one of the few such facilities dedicated to teaching and thesis research in the United States. A state-of-the-art engineering computer lab was established in 2008 through a grant from John Couch in honor of his father, Professor Richard Couch, a Webb alumnus and Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Naval Architecture. The Livingston Library houses an excellent collection of books on naval architecture and marine engineering, humanities, a current model collection in the Rosenblatt Gallery, and historic artifacts and drawings from William Webb’s shipyard. Students have access to the Library around the clock.

Originally located in Fordham Heights in the Bronx, New York, William Webb built Webb’s Academy and Home for Shipbuilders in 1894. Mr. Webb was one of the foremost designers and builders of nineteenth century ships, delivering 169 vessels. His ships included the first steamship to enter the Golden Gate, renowned record-setting clipper ships and sailing packets, large and powerful warships, and opulent ferries operating on Long Island Sound. A strong advocate for good government, Mr. Webb served as chairman of several reform committees. Mr. Webb was encouraged to run for election as Mayor of New York City on three occasions. His diverse business interests also included the Third Avenue Railroad, design and construction of the Hotel Bristol, oil fields in Pennsylvania, insurance companies, and enterprises in the South Pacific and Australia. Mr. Webb was a noted philanthropist and a founding contributor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bronx Zoo and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Webb Institute has continually evolved and improved. With the passing of the original shipbuilder “guests” the school took precedence and became Webb Institute of Naval Architecture. The State of New York granted Webb Institute the right to award Bachelors degrees in 1933. Webb continues to add new features, such as an exchange program with University of Southampton in England that allows students to take a semester abroad. Webb has also been generously supported by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) which last year made a $2 million pledge to establish an endowed academic chair. Further improvements to the Model Basin are also planned through a Federal grant. Webb’s participation in the Navy Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) program sponsored by the US Navy is in the proposal stage and may provide funding for research activities for faculty and students.

The measure of Webb Institute is its graduates. Almost all Webb graduates take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam for professional certification, and Webb boasts a 100-percent pass rate and high scores on this exam. Webb students and alumni also participate in large numbers in the marine industry’s professional organizations; including the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). 

Webb has a long history of 100-percent placement of its graduates in jobs or in graduate school. In recent years approximately one-third of each graduating class has elected to go on to graduate school to continue their technical education or to broaden their skills through MBA or law degrees. Webb alumni are employed in a wide variety of commercial, recreational and naval projects, including:
• Tanker and containership design, construction and operations
• Design and operations in the tug and barge industry
• Research and development of offshore structures
• International yacht design
• Forensic engineering and marine accident investigation
• Engineering and building of US Navy submarines, surface combatants and supply ships.

Webb also produces business executives responsible for strategy and cost, schedule and quality performance of major maritime corporations in the USA and abroad.

The Webb experience binds alumni together in a remarkable way. The approximately 1,040 living alumni and the current students interact as an extended family to support school affairs and fundraising. Alumni giving during the most recent period (2008-2009) was 4.4 percent year-over-year, achieving an all time record, despite the economic downturn. Webb has a remarkably high participation level of 71 percent of living alumni, one of the highest in the nation. Moreover, the five most recent graduating classes achieved an impressive participation of more than 96 percent, setting a heartening example for their elders. Webb alumni also give generously of their time in corporate governance of the school and in direct support of students through lectures and professional networking.