By Derek Woellner —

In February, Stoutonia reported that the university had three new engineering programs pending approval by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. Now, one of those programs has just been approved.

Stout’s new mechanical engineering program was approved Friday, April 10 in a unanimous vote. The program is set to begin in the fall of this year.

Chancellor Meyer said, “Adding mechanical engineering is a natural progression for our current engineering efforts.” He also stated, “We are already a strong engineering school, and this will make us even stronger.”

But if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then that might not be true.

Josh Miller, a senior double majoring in computer and manufacturing engineering, doesn’t believe that adding mechanical engineering is the best course of action.

“Last year I was really excited about it,” Miller said. “But, computer engineering is new and it still needs some work.”

Miller explained that there seems to have been difficulty filling a faculty position in the computer engineering program, and many other faculty members are being stretched thin. He suspects that the proposed budget cuts to the UW System are going to make these two problems even worse.

But despite his doubts, Miller maintains some optimism. “Maybe they’ll be able to do it, but it’s going to be tough.”

If the university is able to do it, the addition of the new program will help meet the growing demand for engineers in the area. A UW System report found that almost 600 mechanical engineers were needed in northwest Wisconsin, but there were less than 100 available.

The Regents have yet to approve new engineering programs for University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and University of Wisconsin–River Falls, the two other member schools of the recently created Northwest Wisconsin Engineering Consortium. The Consortium will develop a shared engineering core curriculum, which will allow engineering students to transfer between Stout and the two other schools more easily.

It is expected that the new program will have 200 students after five years.

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