Opinion: UW-Platteville is best positioned to educate next generation of engineers

Written by Dr. Anne-Marie Lerner on |
Dr. Anne-Marie Lerner is a professor and assistant chair of UW-Platteville's Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.
Dr. Anne-Marie Lerner is a professor and assistant chair of UW-Platteville's Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

I have long believed that anyone can be an engineer and that engineering as a discipline needs representation across the wide spectrum of the human experience. To understand why, it’s important to know what engineering is and how everyone interacts with products of engineering nearly every moment of their existence.

Engineering, at its heart, is solving problems. Engineering, at its best, is imagining and implementing a better human condition. Yes, we make better cars, planes, and ships, but we also imagine and create better materials, safer toys for infants, we develop and manufacture life-saving drugs and medical devices, build safer roads. Professional engineers agree to keep public safety their top priority through their work. The reality is that you are interacting with a product of engineering just about every minute of every day (check your shirt label: cotton-poly blends are peak engineering. Even natural fabrics have been produced at factories that, yes, were engineered, as were the processes to create those fabrics and then shirts).

Because engineering is such an integral part of our daily lives, it’s really important that we have engineers with wide varieties of experiences to ensure the most creative, beneficial solutions. This means that the best engineering programs need to support all students, from when they first walk in the doors, through their undergraduate curriculum and as they enter the working world.

This necessary support of engineers is what sets UW-Platteville apart, making it the best engineering program in Wisconsin. We accept freshmen from all over the state of Wisconsin – from students with experience in FIRST Robotics, who have welding certifications or several semesters of calculus under the belt, to complete novices who come in with nothing except that burning curiosity and drive to make things better. And we support all these students all the way through. We have multiple math tutoring centers, located across the hall from math faculty, to ensure support of their math preparation. We have two study support spaces for students in our brand new Sesquicentennial Hall to ensure success in their studies.

All upper level engineers have faculty advisors who work with their students to tailor their engineering curriculum, co-curricular experiences, and internships/coops/undergraduate research opportunities to set them up to meet their career goals. Our small class sizes – always taught by faculty – ensure that students have the support to be successful in their labs, projects, and lessons.

We are always working to support our students as they develop their future careers. Our career fairs – held twice a year – draw in hundreds of companies across the state (and outside the state too). Our interns, coops, and newly graduated engineers all support the hard-earned reputation that UW-Platteville engineers are hardworking innovators ready to hit the ground running on the first day of employment.

Our senior design courses – the capstone project for engineering curricula – bring in projects from all over the state and support a wide range of Wisconsin industry, including local farming, companies that support agriculture, townships and municipalities that need civil engineering solutions, and local start-ups and innovators needing engineering support.

Between our support of students throughout their college career, the myriad of cocurricular opportunities for students to develop themselves professionally, and the attention students get from faculty, UW-Platteville is best positioned to educate the next generation of engineers who will be transforming our daily lives in the future.