The need for a doctoral research program in engineering at UCR was discussed at least as early as the late 1960s, but it was during the period of burgeoning technology of the 1980s that the college at last emerged. Quality was built in from the start since the earliest planning for the academic program was patterned after the nation's top five programs.
Classes began in the fall of 1989. Founding Dean Susan Hackwood said the rapid growth and achievement that followed was spurred by the growth potential of the Inland Empire region and the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit, of those original students (many of whom were the first in the family to attend college).
Enrollment nearly doubled in 1992 when the Department of Computer Science officially became a part of the college. The addition of this department was only the first of a series of advances that has seen the college grow to 118 faculty members and more than 3,000 students. Since then, the college’s momentum was assisted by the establishment of graduate and undergraduate programs in bioengineering and of interdisciplinary programs in Materials Science and Engineering.
External support has been critical to the rise of the college's programs. In 1994, the Bourns Foundation made a $6 million gift, naming the college in honor of Bourns, Inc. founders Marlan and Rosemary Bourns. The Ford Motor Company established a $10 million endowment fund for the College of Engineering - Center for Environmental Research and Technology. The William R. Johnson, Jr. family of Riverside also made a significant contribution, establishing the College's first endowed chair.
In 2010, Chinese inventor and entrepreneur Winston Chung gave gifts totaling more than $13.1 million, which led to the establishment to two endowed professorships and the Winston Chung Global Energy Center.
Support by leading companies including Northrop Grumman, Google, Microsoft, IBM and ESRI has been important to Bourns' success. For instance, industry and government participation on College advisory boards also provides valuable guidance on strategic investments, educational programs and research priorities - and they hire our graduates.
A critical need for engineers and an uncompromising commitment to quality education and its research mission has enabled it to climb to the top 20 percent of engineering programs ranked by U.S. News and World Report.