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Leaders applaud Regents’ approval of collaborative engineering technology degrees

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The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a trio of new and collaborative engineering technology degrees July 12 designed to make a high-demand field more easily accessible to students in the New North region while also addressing manufacturers’ demands for new infusions of well-prepared engineering graduates.

Students entering the new Leadership in Engineering Technology program and pursuing any of its three degrees are able to begin their academic studies at any one of 13 Northeastern Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA) institutions and colleges, finishing the program and earning their degrees at either UW-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh. The innovative program breaks new ground in providing easy access for Northeastern Wisconsin students to pursue and obtain engineering knowledge and skill regional manufacturers say they are ready to put to work.

At its meeting on July 12, the Board of Regents approved the collaborative, interdisciplinary program, scheduled to launch in the 2013-14 academic year. The program offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Environmental Engineering Technology through collaboration between the NEW ERA institutions, colleges and an array of business partners.

“With these collaborative degree programs, our institutions will be better able to respond to changing educational and workforce needs here in Northeastern Wisconsin,” UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden said. “There are some logistical details we have yet to finalize, but the Board of Regents’ approval is a major step in the important process of implementing these engineering degree programs. Together, we look forward to better serving the students of our region, and ultimately boosting economic development in the New North.”

“This program is critical for manufacturers to remain competitive, as it provides a very well-rounded engineering degree that can be used in multiple areas of our businesses,” said Mark Kaiser, president and CEO of Lindquist Machine Corporation of Green Bay and chairman of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance. “This allows us to offer maximum flexibility and speed to market, as well as helping keep our costs at competitive levels.”

NEW ERA institutions plan to effectively and efficiently deliver the Engineering Technology program based on the breadth of faculty expertise, both conceptual and hands-on application, combined with the state-of-the art laboratory equipment, technology and facilities at the region’s four technical colleges, the five two-year UW Colleges, UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh and the College of Menominee Nation.

Dr. H. Jeffrey Rafn, president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, called development of the new degrees “a very creative, innovative way to build much-needed technical expertise in one of the strongest manufacturing regions in the country.”

“We’re sharing resources, improving credit transfer between institutions and providing access to the basic classes all over Northeast Wisconsin,” Rafn said. “That makes this the best solution not only for our business community, but for taxpayers and students as well. Many details, such as standard practices, are still being worked out, but we are able to do that because of our work with NEW ERA and that commitment to building the economy of the New North.”

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells said the program’s development and approval represents the NEW ERA’s most significant accomplishment to date.

“Like never before, NEW ERA institutions and colleges and New North manufacturing and workforce leaders came together,” Wells said. “They identified a regional challenge, developed a nationally-distinctive educational solution and relied on the knowledge and talent of faculty and staff from our regional array of higher education communities to collaboratively design and develop high-quality, high-demand programs,” Wells said.

UW-Oshkosh Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lane Earns said he expects the response by students to the new programs will be tremendous.

“We expect this program will hit the ground running, benefitting from a surge of strong enrollment from students throughout the New North,” Earns said. “They will be students eager to dive into a high-quality and high-tech program never before offered in our region. These degrees are built upon an education that is accessible and develops career-propelling, quality-of-life-enhancing knowledge and leadership in high demand by regional employers.”

The degrees’ approval is a positive step for the institutions and businesses involved, said Martin Rudd, Campus Executive Officer, Dean, and Professor of Chemistry at UW-Fox Valley.

“These exciting new bachelor of science collaborative degrees in three completion major areas of engineering technology represent a tremendous commitment from the institutions of NEW ERA and regional manufacturers to serve the needs of business in the New North area,” Rudd said. “I am delighted to continue to expand the suite of academic engineering programs that we collectively offer.”

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