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Engaging Industry In Graduate Engineering/Technology Education

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

New Trends in Graduate Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.531.1 - 10.531.11



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Paper Authors

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Preston McCrary

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Chip Ferguson

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Aaron Ball

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Wesley Stone

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3155

Engaging Industry in Graduate Engineering/Technology Education

Chip W. Ferguson, Aaron K. Ball, Wesley Stone, Preston McCrary Western Carolina University


American industry has undergone significant changes due to global economic factors, outsourcing of manufacturing and high-tech jobs, and niche competition. Changes like these have produced negative consequences for many regions of the nation, primarily in the areas of economic and job growth. To mitigate dwindling regional economies, public policy initiatives are redefining the relationships between industry, government, and graduate engineering/technology education. Leaders in each arena are engaging in dialogue centered on strengthening the competitiveness of remaining industry and developing regional resources to support entrepreneurial startups. Leaders and scholars argue that a robust strategy includes collaborative engagement projects which create innovative technologies (intellectual property), a highly trained and creative professional workforce, and resources which support entrepreneurial startups. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into efforts being made by Western Carolina University (WCU) and its graduate Engineering Technology (ET) program to simultaneously foster professional growth in its students and meet the technical needs of a unique region. The focus will be on approaches graduate education can take to address the growing need for technically prepared leaders in engineering fields. Specifically, partnership and engagement actions taken by WCU and the benefits gained will be presented. Through the Center for Integrated Technologies (CIT), graduate students have been involved in creative projects with organizations such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Caterpillar, Borg-Warner, Bombardier Recreational Products, and U.S. GreenTech. Additional information will be provided on equipment resources available for industry use through the CIT and the development of a millennium campus to provide additional resources for entrepreneurial startups. Because of the positive response from all parties involved, the Department of Engineering and Technology at WCU continues to bring creative and innovative opportunities to its students as well as help the regional economy through engagement and accessible resources.


Outsourcing of manufacturing and high-tech jobs coupled with plant closings have resulted in the diminishment of many rural economies. Regions that have disproportionately relied on traditional manufacturing jobs as their main source for employment and livelihood have suffered substantially. In 2004, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers reported that there were 3 million less jobs in manufacturing as compared to 1998.1 The rural region of Western North Carolina has experienced similar trends in manufacturing job-loss since 1998. Due to plant closings and layoffs in 2002, North Carolina had the third highest unemployment rate in the country with 50,500 fewer people employed in manufacturing as compared to job

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

McCrary, P., & Ferguson, C., & Ball, A., & Stone, W. (2005, June), Engaging Industry In Graduate Engineering/Technology Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14218

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