Pre-engineering partnership between College of Menominee Nation and UW-Platteville building steadily

September 17, 2012

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis.– Now in it’s third year of funding from the National Science Foundation, the Pre-Engineering Education Cooperative between the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the College of Menominee Nation is growing stronger and deeper. The partnership — set to establish a pre-engineering two-year associate degree program at CMN and a seamless pipeline for students to transfer to partner institutions in an effort to increase the number of Native Americans involved in engineering — received a third increment of $165,000 as part of an $825,000, five-year award from the NSF.

Major portions of what UW-Platteville is doing on its own campus include finishing the articulation agreement with CMN and preparing a center for students transferring from the CMN.

“We need to find a place where the students that come here as a cohort can call home and study, and a place where we can host some support programs,” said Dr. David Kunz, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at UW-Platteville and principal investigator of the grant. “Our faculty are much more engaged in students here than they are in other bigger universities, and that’s because we are here to do what we do best, and that’s deliver a top-notch undergraduate engineering education.”

“Because CMN is the lead institution on this grant, the work has largely been on their shoulders thus far in preparing course descriptions and curriculum,” said Kunz. “We’ve been working with them on these things, but the primary goal right now is working to increase our cultural competency here on campus so we can make our campus more supportive and receptive and comfortable to those students who come here.”

A first step in doing so was hiring program coordinator Robert Stuewer. Stuewer was a great fit for the position, having grown up a few miles from the Menominee reservation in Kesheena, Wis., and having just recently been a long-term substitute at the junior high school in the immediate school district.

“He has a great connection with the culture and has a great credibility with people in the area,” said Kunz. “This year, he’s spent time every week at CMN and here in Platteville, learning the campuses.”

In true partnership with CMN, one gesture that took Kunz happily by surprise happened at a career fair, as Stuewer staffed a booth with CMN, saying, “we are behind CMN because we want to recruit to and from the college.”

An example of this stance with the CMN can be seen in the implementation of another high-value program that has only been available at UW-Platteville. The Explore Engineering Summer Program is for high school students interested in learning more about the impact and differences in types of engineering. Taught by faculty and staff in labs at UW-Platteville and led by co-investigator Dr. Osama Jadaan of the UW-Platteville General Engineering Department, the summer program has reached wait-list capacity with regularity, as demand is high.

“The Explore Engineering Summer Program is a great opportunity to show high school students all the different types of engineering that we offer here at UW-Platteville,” said Kunz. “We’re trying to recruit to Kesheena, so next summer, we are doing EESP at the College of Menominee Nation. Faculty from UW-Platteville will participate, faculty from CMN will participate, and between us all, we’ll present EESP there and bring people from the area for this great program.”

The lion’s share of the work remaining at UW-Platteville is just being ready. “Native Americans nationally are a thin line among large bands on charts of minority populations. We have a lot of people here who are very interested in increasing diversity on campus and supporting underserved populations, so we will be making some efforts to make faculty here aware of that specific need, that specific part of a diverse population,” said Kunz.

Contact: David Kunz, mechanical engineering chair, UW-Platteville, (608) 342-1431, kunzd@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Ian Clark, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, clarki@uwplatt.edu

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