Mechanical engineering program approved by Board of Regents

By University Communications
April 16, 2015
Assistant Professor Devin Berg with student Sarah Dillon

Photo: Assistant Professor Devin Berg with student Sarah Dillon

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents voted Friday, April 10, to allow UW-Stout to offer a landmark undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. 

"Our business and industry partners in northwest Wisconsin have been clamoring for more employees with mechanical engineering backgrounds," said Chancellor Bob Meyer after the Regents' unanimous vote at UW-Waukesha. "I am grateful that we now will be able to help meet their need for more engineers."

The program will begin in fall 2015. More information is available at www.uwstout.edu/programs/bsme.

The proposal the board approved said the program will have 200 students after five years.

UW-Stout already offers 82 percent of the required engineering curriculum through its computer engineering, manufacturing engineering and plastics engineering programs. UW-Stout also offers a popular engineering technology program.

"Adding mechanical engineering is a natural progression for our current engineering efforts," Meyer said. "We are already a strong engineering school, and this will make us even stronger."

UW-Stout has joined with UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls to form the Northwest Wisconsin Engineering Consortium. The schools will agree on a common engineering core curriculum and share other resources. UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls have new engineering programs pending before the Board of Regents.

Meyer said he believed the mechanical engineering degree would be as successful as UW-Stout's three existing engineering programs, all of which have experienced significant growth the last few years. From 2010 to 2014, the three programs have grown 42 percent from 343 to 488 students.

UW-Stout posted overall record enrollment in fall 2014 and is on course to set another record in fall 2015.

National and state reports have indicated that demand for mechanical engineers will increase over the next decade. A UW System report said that in northwest Wisconsin 597 mechanical engineers were needed, and the supply was 97. A UW-Stout commissioned report revealed a 91 percent increase in job postings for employees with mechanical engineering skills from January 2010 to December 2013 in 31 northern and western Wisconsin counties.

"Manufacturing growth in our region is forecast to increase by 13 percent over the next decade," said Steven Jahn, executive director of the Momentum West regional economic development organization. "This, and higher growth, can only take place if we address and resolve the shortage of mechanical engineers in the region.

"The addition of this degree program to UW-Stout's offerings is possibly the most impactful single initiative we can undertake to resolve the shortage of mechanical engineers in the region," Jahn added.

"The mechanical engineering program is a great complement to UW-Stout's existing program offerings," said Devin Berg, an assistant professor who will be the mechanical engineering program director. "I meet students every week for whom mechanical engineering is the perfect fit. I'm excited that we will now be able to meet the needs of those students who have been waiting patiently for UW-Stout to offer this program."

"Students frequently request this major, and now we can satisfy those needs," said Charles Bomar, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. "From the university perspective, it adds another program to what is already a strong array of engineering programs.

"From a regional perspective," Bomar added, "the addition of mechanical engineering positively impacts our regional industries' ability to meet their current engineering needs and provide for the future growth of their industries, as well as the economic growth of the region."

A new report by the UW-Stout Career Services office showed that all recent graduates of the three engineering undergraduate programs had jobs within six months of leaving campus, and their average salaries were at or above $55,000.