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Professional group lauds engineering management programs

Dec. 6, 2005

KALAMAZOO--For the second year in a row, Western Michigan University's graduate and undergraduate programs in engineering management have been singled out as being among the nation's best by the American Society for Engineering Management.

WMU's master's program in engineering management, last year named as one of the top three such programs in the nation, was first runner-up in ASEM's Founders Award competition this year, effectively giving the WMU program a national second-place ranking. Meanwhile, the WMU undergraduate program in engineering management technology has again earned an ASEM top-five designation. WMU is the only school with top-ranked programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Announcements of the placings were made at ASEM's annual meeting in late October in Virginia Beach, Va.

"We're delighted that ASEM continues to recognize our programs in engineering management, and we're honored to be listed with programs from other top engineering schools as among the nation's best," says Dr. Timothy Greene, dean of WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Our partners in industry have told us how valuable these degree programs are, and the ASEM designations make it easier for companies around the nation to recognize the caliber of students who come to them with these credentials."

Each year since 1991, ASEM has designated programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels as best in the nation. The top program at each level wins the Founders Award for Academic Excellence for Leadership in Engineering and Technical Management, and ASEM lists the other top contenders for the prize.

This year, graduate level honors went to Old Dominion University, and for the first time, ASEM evaluators remarked on the closeness of the decision and named WMU's program as runner-up for the award.

At the undergraduate level, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point earned top honors, while WMU, the University of the Pacific, the University of Missouri-Rolla and Stevens Institute of Technology were top contenders.

Engineering Management is the art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing and controlling activities which have a technological component. The discipline integrates technical engineering and project systems management skills to prepare students to lead people, projects and teams. In addition to traditional engineering course work, students focus on business, economics, systems management and supervision.

"We continue to have a high profile for this program, and in our undergraduate program we've seen a 50 percent spike in enrollment since we were first recognized by ASEM," says Dr. Larry Mallak, who co-directs the program with Dr. David Lyth, both faculty members in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. "This award allows our students to clearly define the caliber of our program when they are speaking with potential employers."

At the graduate level, as well, says Lyth, the program is seeing an increase in inquiries and applications from people who see the master's degree program as a way to improve their credentials and enhance careers. About 80 percent of graduate students in the program are employed full time.

"For people who want a degree that will help them move up the ladder, an MBA or a master's in engineering are the two preferred degrees in industry," says Lyth. "Our master's program is an option that's attractive because it combines both the technical and managerial aspects of those degrees in one program."

Lyth notes that the value of the WMU program to industry was illustrated by some of the testimonials that were considered by ASEM in making its awards. An in-house engineering management program has been run by WMU at Johnson Controls Inc. in Holland since 1996 and already has had 80 JCI employees graduate from the program.

A JCI executive who sent information to ASEM called the program "outstanding" and noted that "more than half of the program's graduates have risen to positions of leadership within our company."

Student testimony played an important part in the ASEM process as well, and both Mallak and Lyth have some favorites. One is the woman with a lifelong dream of working in the space industry. After earning her degree she moved to Florida with no job prospects and quickly found work with a NASA contactor.

"If it were not for the quality of education I got at WMU," she told ASEM, "I would not have my current job."

For more information about WMU's engineering management degree programs, contact Dr. Larry Mallak at (269) 276-3369 or Dr. David Lyth at (269) 276-3368.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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