Partnership will lead to WMU engineering degrees for Aquinas students

Contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of the WMU and Aquinas College's presidents signing an agreement between the two schools.

WMU President John M. Dunn and Aquinas President Juan Olivarez signed the agreement May 3.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Beginning this fall, Aquinas College students will be able to select engineering as their career goal and earn a bachelor's degree through Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

A partnership between Aquinas and WMU announced May 3 means that Aquinas students can spend their first two years earning an Associate of Arts degree from Aquinas and then continue seamlessly on to earn a bachelor's degree in industrial and entrepreneurial engineering through a WMU program based at the college. The program is the first of several engineering majors already planned as future degree offerings.

"This innovative partnership will help students reap the benefits of an Aquinas liberal arts education while also taking advantage of the resources, technology and engineering faculty that WMU has to offer," says Dr. Juan Olivarez, president of Aquinas. "With a partnership like this, the ultimate winner is the workforce, as our two institutions team-up to produce graduates who have the skills and experience for in-demand engineering careers with the well-rounded background of an Aquinas education, grounded in Catholic and Dominican values."

About the partnership

Students may apply for acceptance in the engineering program at the end of their sophomore year.  General education and engineering prerequisites will be taught by Aquinas faculty, while WMU faculty will teach engineering courses. General education, pre-engineering and some engineering courses will be taught at Aquinas or at the WMU-Grand Rapids campus for the first five semesters of an enrolled student's pathway. Semesters six and seven and the summer between them will be primarily taught on the WMU campus in Kalamazoo.

"The strength of Aquinas's math and science curriculum is an enormous asset for this initiative," says WMU President Dr. John M. Dunn. "That strength and the fact that both institutions share a commitment to ensuring all students graduate with a broad-based liberal arts background made this partnership a natural fit. We'll be preparing young people to bring the best of both worlds to their professional lives, and they will be ready to immediately contribute to the needs of our region, state and nation."

Aquinas tuition rates will apply for the first two years, as students earn their associate degrees. WMU's tuition rate for Extended University Programs, which is lower than Aquinas's rate, will apply for engineering course work once the student is accepted into the program, making the path an exceptional value for Aquinas students.

Graduates of WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences enjoy an overall 92 percent success rate after graduation and go on to graduate school or employment at some of the nation's top companies.  A recent CNBC story ranked industrial engineering as on the the nation's top five highest-paying college majors.

Dr. Steven E. Butt, chair of WMU's Department of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management, says the degree program that will be offered at Aquinas is a traditional engineering program with an entrepreneurial engineering focus in which engineering design, creativity and innovation are emphasized. Students in the program have the opportunity to solve real world problems in a practical setting.

"Students learn how to bring real products and services to market," he says. "And they learn how to market and sell their product ideas."

Academic officials at both WMU and Aquinas have been working for two years to put the program in place at Aquinas. Butt says he expects some Aquinas enrollees will also take advantage of the fact that WMU offers an accelerated master's degree in the discipline, allowing undergraduates to begin taking graduate courses during their junior and senior years.

"We're hoping to see a few students go into our graduate program. They'll be able to continue and complete their studies in Kalamazoo or at our WMU-Grand Rapids facility," he notes.

Once the industrial and entrepreneurial engineering program is underway at Aquinas, officials at both schools plan to turn their attention to a civil engineering degree program that is nearly ready to roll out at the college.

For more information about the new engineering degree option, including how to apply, visit, or by contacting the Aquinas admissions office at (616) 632-2913.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit