MaryBeth Matzek: Thirteen colleges come together for unique engineering degree

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

Come fall, students seeking a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology will have a new option. They can start at one of 13 colleges and universities in northeast Wisconsin and finish up at either University of Wisconsin-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh.

This unique collaborative program came about by listening to business leaders, who stress the need for more employees with bachelor’s degrees in engineering technology, said Scott Furlong, dean of liberal arts and sciences at UW-Green Bay.

“This program will provide students with a degree that has some very explicit and specific employment opportunities in areas which manufacturers are saying they need,” he said, adding the degree combines hands-on skills along with more in-depth critical thinking courses. Students with engineering technology degrees focus on application and implementation, rather than the theory and design work that engineers work on.

The regional bachelor’s degree in engineering technology has been in the works for a number of years. Faculty from the 12 members of the Northeast Wisconsin Education Resource Alliance (NEW ERA) first came together to outline the necessary courses with input from local business leaders. The next step was getting approval from the UW Board of Regents, which came last summer. This week, the Higher Learning Commission gave its permission, which means a group of students can start the program this fall.

The partnership is designed to make entering the program — which has focuses in electrical, mechanical and environmental engineering technology depending on the student’s interest — very accessible, Furlong said. For example, a student living in Marinette could start out by taking courses at UW-Marinette, a two-year college, or Northeast Wisconsin Technical College before finishing up at UW-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh.

Read the full column for more