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Panel awards $1.9m in funding for engineering technology program

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The establishment of a collaborative engineering technology degree program that will benefit students in Northeastern Wisconsin took a major step forward Friday, Nov. 1, when a University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents committee OK’d nearly $1.9 million in new grant funding.

The funds will help jump-start a trio of new and collaborative engineering technology degrees, which were approved by the Board of Regents in July 2013. Students in the program will be able to begin their academic studies at any one of 13 Northeastern Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA) universities and colleges, and finish the program at either UW-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh. 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.

“The approval of this funding is great news for UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh and all the member institutions that are working together to better respond to changing educational and workforce needs in Northeastern Wisconsin,” said UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden. “These majors will help create a skilled workforce ready to accept existing jobs with regional manufacturers who seek to expand operations. We are pleased to be moving forward with this important program.”

The Regents’ Research, Economic Development and Innovation (REDI) Committee approved the funding as part of a $22.5 million Incentive Grant package designed to support increased economic growth and a stronger Wisconsin workforce. It will allow for the hiring of three engineering education faculty members at UW-Green Bay and three at UW-Oshkosh, as well as filling a program coordinator position, said Julia Wallace, UW-Green Bay Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

“With this funding in place, we anticipate we will be able to start offering a preparatory intro to engineering course as early as spring 2014, with program classes beginning as soon as next fall,” Wallace said. “We’re also looking at developing a program in the high schools that will introduce students to the array of options available in the engineering technology field.”

The program is contingent on Higher Learning Commission accreditation, and its curriculum will be developed through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Each program will have its own advisory board that will help develop curriculum and internship opportunities — and more than 70 area companies have indicated their interest thus far.

“The creation of the Engineering Technology degrees is an important development for students and the Northeast Wisconsin community,” said Scott Furlong, UW-Green Bay Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Many people are involved in helping to make this the best program possible and the collaboration among the different NEW ERA institutions has been critical. We still have some work to do and this grant will be instrumental in moving us forward.”

The collaborative nature of the engineering technology degree program is beneficial for the entire region, added H. Jeffrey Rafn, president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, a NEW ERA member.

“This creative collaboration among NEW ERA partners allows us to develop the workforce and technical expertise of one of the country’s strongest manufacturing regions,” Rafn said. “By working together to share resources, improve credit transfers and provide access to classes across Northeast Wisconsin, we’re continuing our commitment to building the economy of the New North.”

The Incentive Grant funding as a whole “represents the Wisconsin Idea at its best,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “We are investing university resources to address key state priorities. These investments will help drive regional economic development and advance new educational and research initiatives to support traditional and emerging Wisconsin industries.”

Added Regent Tim Higgins, chair of the Regents’ REDI Committee: “We see this as an important strategy in more effectively aligning UW campus collaborations with economic and workforce development initiatives wherever they occur in the state. These efforts will provide direct benefit to businesses and communities statewide, and create new and expanded opportunities for our students and faculty.”

For more on Friday’s announcement and the Incentive Grant recipients, see the complete UW System news release at www.wisconsin.edu/news/2013/r131101.htm.

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