Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Bob White

WMU yearbook photo of Dr. Bob White

This month we have a twist on our usual Alumni Spotlight. We are featuring Dr. Bob White, a professor here at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences – who also happens to be an alumnus. White graduated from WMU with both a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1972 and a master’s degree in operations research in 1976. He received his Ph.D. in engineering valuation from Iowa State University in 1980 and returned to Western as a faculty member in industrial engineering. His current research interests are the integration of cost accounting and project justification methods and the analysis of salvage methods for public utilities. With ties to WMU going back more than 40 years, White has seen tremendous growth and change in the college during that time. He can be reached at bob.white@wmich.edu.

 

You have been affiliated with WMU for many years, as both a college student pursuing your bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then as a faculty member. Why did you initially select Western for college?

I was studying pre-engineering at Kalamazoo College and after two years I planned to transfer to an engineering program. I looked at Western’s Industrial Engineering program and decided it was a good fit for me.

 

After receiving your Ph.D., why did you decide to return to Western?

As I was finishing my Ph.D. at Iowa State University I was interested in a faculty position and I was looking at opportunities at several schools, including Western.  I considered several factors including teaching opportunities, research opportunities, size and location of the school, proximity to family, and where I thought I could make a contribution and make a difference. Considering all of these things made Western the best choice.

 

What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen at WMU -- and specifically, with the college -- since you first came here?

When I started at Western there were two engineering programs, industrial engineering and paper science and engineering. There were also several technology programs, including electrical engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology. Within a few years electrical and mechanical changed to engineering programs, and the college went through a significant expansion with the addition of several new engineering programs. 

 

What are you passionate about in your work?

My passion is working with young people and helping them become what they want to be. Young people come to a university to make their lives better, to have a better future. It is very exciting to work with these young people, to help them focus their energy, and to watch them grow and mature into outstanding young engineers. I tell my students I hope they will have what I have and that is a job and a career they will enjoy as much as I enjoy mine. 

 

What do you love to teach?

I love to teach students about the broad reach of engineering. I want to help them realize that engineering is more than equations and numbers. Engineering is about using our knowledge of math and science to make everyone’s life better.

 

What do you remember most vividly about your time as a Bronco engineering student?

When I was a senior in Industrial Engineering, the assistant Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Robert Boughner, approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a student chapter of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers -- what is today the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers.  I recruited some additional students to help, and together we organized and founded the Institute of Industrial Engineers Student Chapter at Western Michigan University.  As a student, I had the privilege of serving as the first president. As a faculty member, for many years I had the privilege of serving as the faculty advisor. This year over 40 members of the IISE Student Chapter attended the IISE Regional Conference in Athens, Ohio. Through the years, it has been very exciting to be involved in the growth and development of the IISE student chapter.

 

Anything else we should know?

I consider it a privilege and honor to be a professor of engineering. All of us that work at Western are in a position to have a great influence on young people. Faculty, with their daily contact with students, have opportunities to shape and influence many lives.  We should never lose sight of how important our work is.