UWO to offer UW-Platteville engineering courses

Joseph Schulz, Regional Editor

UW Oshkosh will begin offering UW-Platteville engineering classes on top of its existing engineering technology program in 2019.

The partnership was finalized at a signing and press conference held on March 9. The goal of the partnership is to increase the number of engineers in the Fox Cities in order to meet the demand of local manufacturing companies.

According to Assistant Chancellor for Access Campuses Martin Rudd, UW-Fox Valley has been partnered with Platteville for almost 20 years.
Rudd said the partnership started as a response to demand from businesses in the Fox Valley looking for qualified engineers.

“I was actually on campus in 2005 when the original engineering classroom and lab opened in this Platteville partnership,” Rudd said “We quickly grew out of that facility as the number of students interested in pursuing an engineering degree, while staying in the Fox Cities, increased into the triple digits.”

Rudd said UWO will be offering courses in Platteville’s engineering program, meaning UWO isn’t developing a new program.

“What we’re doing is bringing together the three campuses of UWO with the engineering programs of UW-Platteville to enhance the accessibility of those bachelor engineering programs in northeastern Wisconsin,” Rudd said. “Effectively what it means is that students can enter and exit from the three campuses of UWO with an engineering technology degree or a mechanical or an electrical engineering degree.”

UWO Engineering Technology Department Chairman Gregory Kleinheinz said students that graduate from UWO that are part of the UW-Platteville engineering program will receive a UW-Platteville degree.

“Platteville courses could be taught here, they could be taught at UWFV; we don’t know exactly where they’re all going to be yet,” Kleinheinz said. “We expect them to be as accessible as any other class on campus.”

Kleinheinz said the program is designed to be accessible to both traditional and nontraditional students.

“There is a group that’s going to work with nontraditional students; those classes we’re going to try to have in the evening. Those might be up at Fox Valley, some may be [at UWO],” Kleinheinz said. “But if a student wants to take a class, but the only class is offered at a certain time [at UWFV], they could take it, and it would be interchangeable.”

Department of Engineering Technology Coordinator Dennis Rioux said the main difference between the engineering program from Platteville and the engineering technology program is that engineering technology is more about taking a product from concept to an actual working product, whereas engineering is more design- and theory-based.

“A typical scenario is one where, say, you’re working for the widget-maker corporation,” Rioux said. “The design office, where the engineers are, is going to design the widget-maker 3000. The engineering technology person is somebody who might contribute to that design a little bit but is primarily responsible for making that widget-maker 3000 appear on the shop floor.”

Kleinheinz said offering both engineering and engineering technologies gives students more options.

“Some students, as they go through the program, they may decide they really want engineering, and they may get three years in, and they may decide they like engineering technology because of the application,” Kleinheinz said. “Conversely, some students may be in engineering technology, but they’d rather do engineering, maybe they like the theory or design work.”

Kleinheinz said the new program responds to a universal demand for engineers across Northeast Wisconsin.

“There’s huge demand,” Kleinheinz said. “We’re not graduating enough engineers in any discipline nationwide and Wisconsin isn’t immune to that. We have multitudes of positions unfilled. We just hear loud and clear that there’s a need for it.”

Kleinheinz said working with the staff from UWFV and UW-Platteville has been a positive experience because they share a common goal.

“At the end of the day this is about students and bringing students into engineering,” Kleinheinz said. “If an Oshkosh student graduates with a Platteville degree, we’re okay with that. If they succeed, we succeed.”