WMU News

New chemical engineering degree one of a kind in Michigan

Dec. 19, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University will begin offering a new degree this fall that is a standard in the field of engineering, but with a focus that makes it unique in the state.

The WMU Board of Trustees Dec. 19 approved a new bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering. The program, which brings the number of WMU's bachelor's degree offerings to 155, is an extension of WMU's well-known expertise in the field of paper engineering.

"The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has awarded a bachelor of science in paper engineering for more than 40 years," says Dr. Leonard R. Lamberson, dean of the college. "The degree in paper is essentially an applied chemical engineering degree aimed at only one manufacturing process. Potential students recognize the chemical engineering degree since it is standard among colleges of engineering throughout the world."

The new program will use the college's present equipment and expertise, while offering some new options for students. It was designed with two specialties: paper and pulping; and inks and imaging.

"These specialties are well within our abilities to deliver a superior educational experience, recognizing that we have previously been involved in both areas for many years," Lamberson says. "Both of these processing areas are unique among Michigan universities."

In fact, the inks and imaging specialty will be the only one of its kind in the country, he said. The 136-credit-hour program has been designed to meet the accreditation standards of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Lamberson expects to enroll about 40 students per year in the program as it unfolds, with a four-year enrollment of 160 students. He says there already are students on campus waiting for the program to be initiated so they can enroll.

Students who graduate from the program will work as chemical engineers in the design, control and production operations and in the environmental areas of process industries. The more general nature of the degree will allow them to find work not only in the paper and printing industries, but also in the petroleum, plastics and medical fields.

Like graduates of WMU's paper science and engineering program, those completing their degrees in chemical engineering are expected to enjoy a 100 percent placement rate. Lamberson noted that one recent national survey of employers listed the highest earning graduates with bachelor's degrees as chemical engineers, with average starting salaries of $44,000.

The new program has been approved through the University's curricular review process and has been endorsed by the academic officers of the Presidents Council of State Universities.

In other action, the Board of Trustees approved a name change for the college's master of science degree program in manufacturing science to manufacturing engineering. The change better reflects the focus of the program, Lamberson says.

WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 30 undergraduate engineering programs among comparable institutions in the nation. It offers 20 undergraduate programs and 12 graduate programs leading to degrees in a variety of disciplines.

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