Expanding connections with industry
The distinct connection between universities and businesses is the driving force behind the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Industry Advisory Board—a team of industry professionals, alumni, and faculty with a passion for Western.
“The industry advisory board’s involvement is one of those things that can help separate Western’s engineering school from many others,” says MikePreston, chair of the council and manager, engineering functional excellence, at Eaton Corporation.
And, distinguishing Western is part of the college’s mission.
The board itself is an important mechanism for the engineering college to garner industry feedback on what skills and knowledge are critical in new hires. Those critical elements can become part of the curriculum, ensuring students are ready to take on important roles in business.
“Whether our board members give guest lectures, speak at special events, sponsor senior design projects, participate in career events or become platinum members of the board – they’re all invested in the students,” says Preston. “WMU has a strong connection to its industry partners and the industry advisory council is central to that.”
While supporting the college through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront of recent efforts, the council’s longer-term goals focus around two areas –
- Expanding CEAS offerings to reflect what is evolving in industry—developments such as cybersecurity, systems engineering and Industry 4.0, to name just a few.
- Ensuring that the communication paths between the CEAS and industry partners continues to be smooth, easy and efficient.
To foster that communication, the board established the industry outreach office to function as a single point of contact for companies wanting to connect with the college. The board envisions that the office will grow, spearheading a deeper partnership with many of the CEAS industry partners.
“One of our primary goals as a college is for our students to develop awareness and knowledge of the industries and companies that represent a key piece of higher education—employers,” says Dr. Steve Butt, dean of the CEAS. “By becoming a premiere partner on our industry board, companies have added opportunities to be fully represented in this brand awareness among our students.”
The industry outreach office offers partnership opportunities for further connecting with students and the college. The three levels of membership—bronze, gold, platinum—offer various benefits and opportunities ranging from increasing a company’s brand awareness among students to working with faculty on research to creating co-op partnerships and supporting the senior design projects. Platinum and gold partners are also invited to participated on the industry advisory council.
"I am excited that the college has maintained the delicate balance of being advanced, cutting-edge and growth oriented without getting too big and impersonal. I joined the industry advisory board many years ago because of connections with professors that I developed as a student and maintained after graduating. Those types of relationships simply don’t happen in the same way at much larger universities."—Mike Preston, chair, industry advisory board