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Engineering management program is best in nation

Dec. 5, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's graduate program in engineering management has been named the top such program in the nation, while the University's undergraduate program in the same discipline is among the top-three programs nationally.

The American Society for Engineering Management announced the rankings in October at the group's annual meeting, held this year in Huntsville, Ala. This is the third year both WMU programs have been listed among the nation's top five. WMU is the only school in the nation with top-ranked programs at both levels in the discipline that blends engineering and project management skills.

"It is faculty's hard work and continued dedication that has brought this recognition to WMU," said Engineering Dean Timothy Greene in announcing the programs' new rankings. "This recognition adds considerable value to our graduates' degrees."

According to the programs' advisors, Drs. David Lyth and Larry Mallak of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, three years of national rankings have transformed their programs, doubling the number of undergraduates enrolled and generating more job opportunities for recent grads and increased mobility for program alumni."

"In our graduate program, our students are primarily working professionals whose employers are paying their tuition. Those students are seeing increases in compensation and significant increases in their levels of responsibility," says Lyth, who is the graduate advisor. "Both our current students and alumni are reporting that their employers are pleased to have supported their work in a program being recognized as the best in the nation."

Mallak reports "tremendous growth in the undergraduate program over the past three years," and says the professional recognition is opening doors nationally for graduates.

"The national exposure is resulting in more placement activity for our students around the nation," says Mallak. "The most recent crop of graduates saw an annual average starting salary of $52,000."

ASEM changed its ranking procedures this year, opting to focus on only one graduate program--the one it deemed best nationally--without identifying runners-up. At the undergraduate level, only the top three programs were honored, rather than the top five named in previous years. This year, West Point took top undergraduate honors, with Stevens Institute of Technology and WMU in the second and third spots, respectively.

In making its selections for the rankings, ASEM considers the specifics of the programs as well as testimony from industry and letters from program graduates and current students.

Typical of the support that was filed on behalf of the WMU program was a letter from Matt Rodammer, an executive with Johnson Controls Inc., in Holland, Mich., where 80 employees have earned master's degrees in engineering management since the company and WMU launched a partnership in 1996 to offer the degree program in Holland.

"The applicability covers the entire spectrum from the more 'MBA-like' classes to the hard-core technical classes," Rodammer wrote. "It seems that an entire generation of technical leaders on our Holland campus has been equipped and seasoned by Western Michigan University and the Graduate Engineering Management program."

Kenneth Kuk, professor and former chair of Ferris State University's Engineering Technology Department and former assistant dean in its College of Technology, is another graduate of the program who detailed the value of the degree to his career.

"The skills and knowledge gained in the program have played a vital role in my leadership position," he said.

Another recent graduate, Sundaresan Narayanan, is a strategic sourcing leader with Delphi Corp. in Troy, Mich. He said the skills he gained through the program have given him an edge over his peers and allow him to add more value to his company.

"The program not only teaches the technical aspects of engineering, but also covers the managerial aspects of business," he noted, calling those skills "basic necessities in a global economy."

Lyth and Mallak credit the program's success to all of the faculty members of their department who teach the core classes along with them. They also singled out Dr. Betsy Aller, who works with each graduating senior on a capstone senior design project, for special mention.

Engineering Management is the art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing and controlling activities which have a technological component. It 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. Lyth and Mallak note that about two-thirds of WMU undergraduates in the engineering management program have opted for integrated supply management as a minor. That program, another WMU specialty, is the only such program in the nation that combines curricula from the business and engineering colleges.

The undergraduate engineering management program is offered only on the main WMU campus in Kalamazoo. The graduate program is offered on the main campus and at WMU regional campuses in Holland and Grand Rapids.

"We're seeing great interest in the graduate program from professionals across southwest Michigan," Mallak says. "We're hoping to expand the program to offer it at our campuses in Battle Creek and Benton Harbor. We already have students traveling from those cities every week to take classes in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. We're confident the demand is there."

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

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