EMU outlines plans to meet increasing demand for engineers in Michigan

Written by Geoff Larcom

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University plans to greatly expand educational opportunities for students in engineering and engineering technology as it seeks to fill a growing and largely unmet demand for trained engineering graduates in Michigan through expansion of EMU’s College of Technology.

President James Smith outlined those plans this month to Lansing lawmakers in a presentation to the House of Representatives Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee. The project, “Program Growth and Expansion of the Engineering and Technology Complex – Phase II,” is the University’s state capital outlay request for 2020.

The University is presently funding the $40 million renovation of Sill Hall, home of the College of Technology. Phase II involves the renovation of adjacent Jones Hall, at a cost of $40 million, into a state-of-the-art facility that will embrace new teaching and learning methods, incorporate new technology and accommodate current and future trends in the rapidly evolving fields of engineering.

The new facility comes in response to the rapid projected growth in engineering fields, President Smith said.

For example, Eastern’s program in Mechanical Engineering, which began in fall 2017, figures to more than triple its enrollment over the next ten years. Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering, which begin at Eastern this past fall, project similar growth. Eastern plans to start a program in Civil Engineering in fall 2020 as well.

President Smith noted that Eastern has demonstrated its commitment to the state’s future by already investing $40 million in the ongoing renovation of Sill Hall, with that project set for completion by fall 2020. Yet new program space is needed as well, he added.

The state has already demonstrated its endorsement of the effort, having ranked the Sill Hall renovation third in its considered list of projects for capital outlay this past year before other projects were moved ahead of it late in the process.

Nature of the project

Phase II would involve repurposing Jones Hall, creating new high-tech engineering and technology lab spaces, with enhanced capability for student and student-faculty collaboration. The renovation would make use of an existing courtyard, which would be infilled to create new lab space.

Jones Hall was built as a residence hall in 1948 and closed for use in 2005. The building retains its original systems, which offer insufficient electrical and mechanical services, and now the building needs $23 million in deferred maintenance, President Smith said while emphasizing the lesser cost of a renovation vs. new construction. Jones Hall can now be adapted for academic offices and collaborative spaces, President Smith said.

The new facility would incorporate the dramatic evolution in technology-based teaching methods, which now emphasize interactive spaces and active learning. That means changes in student living and learning environments, such as creative makers spaces, hands-on learning experiences and beyond-the-classroom activities.

Such educational advances offer the appropriate environment to educate today’s students in the technology advancements in areas such as advanced manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, drone technology and robotics that dominate today’s engineering landscape, along with the need for enhanced cyber security and information assurance.

What this means for Michigan

President Smith highlighted the strong demand for engineers and technology professionals in Michigan, along with the fact that our state’s public universities meet only 40 percent of that demand.

Eastern is distinctly positioned to meet that demand to a wide variety of students at various career stages, President Smith said, in part given its more than 140 articulation agreements with community colleges, the highest figure in the state. “EMU College of Engineering and Technology graduates fill needed STEM vacancies in the job market,” President Smith said.

President Smith noted that the project paves the way for more high-demand engineers working in Michigan. Nearly 90 percent of the EMU College of Technology students are from Michigan and nearly 90 percent of the college’s graduates stay and work in the state, he said.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website.

MAIN PHOTO: Conceptual rendering of Jones Hall – COT.