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International Corporations Support New Engineering Major With Central College

March 30, 2015

Central College and three Pella companies have partnered to support a Bachelor of Science in Engineering program, the college’s first B.S. degree. Central College President Mark Putnam said the college, along with Vermeer Corp., Pella Corp. and Precision, Inc. (PPI), will be part of a bigger story — the state, the business community and private education working together to advance the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiative. Putnam and Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa announced the new program Monday at the Statewide STEM Summit in Des Moines and later at the iExplore STEM festival for high school and middle school students on Central’s campus in Pella.

Jeff Weld, executive director of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, said the birth of an engineering program at Central College is beautifully timed and welcomed by STEM advocates across the state.

"When you consider that many thousands of young Iowans are at this very moment engaged in the STEM Council's K-12 pre-engineering programs, each proven to inspire the next generation of innovators, higher education had better get ready,” Weld said. “Woven into a liberal arts scaffold, Central's engineering degree will answer the clamor for critical and creative thinkers to drive our 21st-century economy."

Central's engineering major will include coursework in electronics, thermodynamics, materials and dynamic systems, physics and mathematics. The program culminates with a two-semester Capstone Design course. Students will be able to complete the degree in four years (eight semesters) and gain practical experience through summer internships and co-ops. The new major will prepare graduates for jobs in engineering immediately after graduation or graduate programs in engineering.

Three international corporations headquartered in Pella give Central a unique opportunity to unite a liberal arts academic core, talented faculty in natural and engineering sciences, and the expertise of local, practicing engineers. Partnerships will include teaching, funding, shared equipment, real-world projects, internships, co-ops and career opportunities.

Pat Meyer, CEO of Pella Corp., said Central’s commitment to innovative and exceptional higher education is critical to the success of Pella and the business community.

“We, at Pella Corporation, are pleased to be a part of that,” Meyer said. “Central has a real opportunity to educate engineers in a unique way with strong corporate partnerships, personalized attention from faculty and engineering professionals, and focused preparation and skill sets that are adaptable over a lifetime.”

Andringa, also chair of the board at Vermeer, said a successful future depends on leaders arming today’s students with the right skills for tomorrow’s workforce.  

“I applaud Central College for introducing an engineering degree — and the opportunities it will provide to their future graduates and our workforce needs as a whole,” Andringa said. “With only one qualified job seeker for every 3.4 STEM jobs today, and nearly a third of manufacturers citing insufficient reading, writing and communication skills in the workplace, a well-rounded education is one obvious solution to these growing, critical needs.”

Roger Brown, president and CEO of PPI, said the partnership with Central will benefit everyone involved. “It’s exciting to team up with a college community full of young and talented minds, who are eager to make a difference in the world,” Brown said. “We look forward to the opportunities to teach, learn and work with students and faculty while connecting the classroom to the corporate setting.”

Before adding engineering, Central has built a record of success in closely related programs. Central graduates are admitted to graduate engineering programs across the country, and 95 percent of physics majors are admitted into their first- or second-choice graduate school.

Central graduates who focused on engineering have gone on to work for major companies like Fisher Controls, Epic Systems Corp., Musco Sports Lighting, Burns & McDonnell, Johnson Controls and Rockwell Collins, in addition to the Pella-based corporations.


About the Iowa STEM Advisory Council

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is a made up of leaders in higher education, business, pre-K through 12 educators, as well as state and local government officials. The STEM Council is led by Governor Kim Reynolds and Accumold President and CEO Roger Hargens. The executive director of the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council is Dr. Jeff Weld.

There are a total of 47 members on the STEM Council, including 17 members that comprise the Executive Committee.