WMU News

Michael Atkins selected as new engineering dean

Sept. 16, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Dr. Michael B. Atkins has been selected as the new dean of the Western Michigan University College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Atkins has served as chairperson of WMU's Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering since 1998, and in September 2001, he took on additional duties as the college's assistant dean for external relations and facilities. He also has served since 1998 as chairperson of the Department of Manufacturing Engineering. He replaces Dr. Daniel M. Litynski, who was named WMU provost and vice president for academic affairs Aug. 14. Atkins' appointment, which was effective Sept. 1, was made pending approval by the WMU Board of Trustees at its next meeting Friday, Sept. 20.

"Dr. Atkins has been involved with both planning and operations for all aspects of the college's initiatives, and he will be able to step in without missing a beat," said Litynski of Atkins' selection for the position. "He will provide a seasoned and steady hand at the helm and a vision for excellence for the future as the college continues to build on its core strength of teaching and learning, increase its scholarship and research activities, and work with external partners in new and exciting ways."

Atkins joined the WMU faculty in 1971. Prior to coming to WMU, the Texas native taught at both Texas A&M University and San Antonio College. In his current position, he has overseen a dramatic expansion of his department's research and instructional capabilities. He was instrumental in establishing the college's Computer Aided Engineering Center and negotiated a number of major partnerships with the makers of industrial computer hardware and software products widely used in the automotive, aviation and electronics industries. They include such products as the French-designed CATIA system, quality simulation software from Varatech of Holland, Mich., and design analysis software from Australia-based Moldflow Corp.

As dean, Atkins says he expects such corporate partnerships to continue to play a major role in the college's development.

"In terms of research, the college has experienced an accelerated pattern of collaboration with industrial partners across the region, and we find ourselves becoming very involved in economic development issues," Atkins says. "One of the things that truly excites me is the role we, as a college and a university, are forging as a resource for the entire state and region."

As dean, Atkins will oversee a college composed of seven departments, offering 30 degree programs to some 3,100 students. The college offers 19 undergraduate, 11 master's-level and five doctoral degree programs. More than 90 full-time faculty members and 50 staff members as well as numerous contract staff members and graduate assistants are part of the college work force.

Among Atkins' major responsibilities in the coming year will be overseeing the completion of WMU's new engineering complex on its Parkview Campus, just south of the University's main campus in Kalamazoo. The Parkview Campus also is home to WMU's new Business Technology and Research Park for companies in the life sciences, advanced engineering and information technology. The college is scheduled to move into its new $72.5 million home in summer 2003. Another part of the engineering complex, a Paper Coating Pilot Plant for research, will open on the new campus later this fall.

"The new facilities will provide some wonderful new opportunities for teaching with technology," Atkins notes. "One of our ongoing efforts this year will be to get everyone ready to use that technology to its fullest advantage so we can hit the ground running next year when we are in the new building. We'll be working to create a totally different instructional environment."

Atkins earned a bachelor's degree in industrial education in 1963 and a master's degree in industrial education and administration in 1966, both from East Texas State University--now Texas A&M-Commerce. He moved on to Texas A&M's College Park campus to earn a doctoral degree in industrial education and engineering graphics and architecture in 1971.

He has been active in research and teaching in engineering technology, with a primary emphasis on computer-aided design and manufacturing computer applications. The author or co-author of a number of monographs, articles and textbooks, Atkins is a frequent speaker at national conferences. He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Computer and Automated Systems Association of SME.

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

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