Where produce meets programming: DePaul plans for engineering program to sprout out of former Whole Foods


Erin Henze

DePaul has plans to create an engineering program at the university. The program’s department will take the place of the former Whole Foods on the Lincoln Park campus.

When the Whole Foods on Sheffield Avenue under DePaul’s Centennial Hall closed in May 2022, DePaul students wondered what was next for the site. Some speculated that another grocery store like Trader Joe’s or Target might take its place. Those rumors have since been cleared up after discussion within the Faculty Council revealed the space is saved for a novel engineering program at DePaul.

Graham Griffin, co-chair of Faculty Council’s physical environment committee, the group concerned with the facilities of DePaul’s campus, confirmed the university’s intention for the site.  

“That space is earmarked for the new engineering program,” Griffin said about the 959 W. Fullerton Ave. building. 

However, Russell Dorn, a spokesperson for DePaul stated how the space will be utilized has yet to be confirmed and is currently part of a space optimization study. 

As of April 7, 2021, Faculty Council approved two engineering majors to be housed in the College of Science and Health (CSH): environmental engineering and civil engineering. Neither of the majors have launched as options for students, however the requirements for both programs are listed on the CSH website

Both majors have the same program structure outlined by CSH. 

“The program takes a holistic approach to developing future civil engineering professionals by helping individuals gain skills in foundational areas of STEM and the humanities and social sciences in core engineering fundamentals related to analysis and design, and in broader technical skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, economics, ethics, and sustainability,” according to CSH.

Both environmental and civil engineering majors will use a cohort model with all students enrolled in the same engineering seminar courses their freshman year. Dr. Christie Klimas and Dr. Jesus Pando estimated in their proposal that 40 students will matriculate the program’s first year and 80 each subsequent year. 

In January 2022, DePaul hired Anne Raich as director for the engineering program to work on its development. The proposal given at faculty council also indicated the hiring of full-time faculty members to teach engineering courses. However, none have been hired yet. 

The program was intended to launch in fall 2023 but was recently halted. 

“The targeted fall 2023 launch date of the civil and environmental engineering programs was paused this past fall,” Raich said. “We are currently looking at developing engineering program initiatives that will support and build off of the new university strategic plan.” 

This decision came from President Robert L. Manuel, who discussed the program at the Designing DePaul event on Jan. 26. 

“I asked to stall the delivery of engineering,” Manuel said.

Raich said specifics about the program will come later. 

“More information about specific engineering programs would likely be available later this spring or during the summer,” Raich said. 

For students in CSH, this sounds like a move in the right direction. 

“Just thinking about the workforce, and in the future, what students could possibly work in,” SGA Senator for CSH Ana Karen Delgado Ayala said. 

DePaul said it is focused on expanding its interdisciplinary learning, and the engineering program is a step in that direction for the university. 

“Interdisciplinary learning and research centers will increase the value and distinction of a DePaul degree for our students—and improve the quality of life for the communities in which we live,” via design framework

This move reflects what students are looking for in their education at DePaul. 

“I think having more programs at DePaul, especially in engineering could be a really good idea,” Ayala said. “I think it’ll add to the experience even more, especially as a science student.”