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Unique engine-centered master's program graduates first class

The Master of Engineering in Engine Systems program graduated its
                        first 10 students in 2007.

The Master of Engineering in Engine Systems program graduated its first 10 students in 2007. (large image)

A master of engineering program that began out of a lunch conversation between University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty and industry professionals is graduating its first class of 10 students this week.

The program, the Master of Engineering in Engine Systems (MEES), focuses on mid-career professionals looking to gain a broad knowledge of engines and uses an online format that allows them to maintain their careers while earning the degree. Six of the 10 graduates come from Wisconsin-based companies such as Harley Davidson, Briggs & Stratton and Mercury Marine.

Engineering Professional Development Associate Faculty Associate Kevin Hoag, former MEES director and current instructor, says the program's curriculum developed as companies realized most of their workers naturally specialized in one of two main areas of engine research: mechanical development or thermal science.

Kevin L. Hoag

Kevin L. Hoag (large image)

“Every company said the same thing, that they can see their engineers kind of falling into one of those areas,” he says. “Well then, the next question that comes in is, you’ve got a new engine program where you want a chief engineer to lead designing a new engine from a clean sheet of paper. Who do you want to lead that program and what kind of expertise do you want? Well, you want somebody who has both of those backgrounds.”

Another important component of the program is the Engine Research Center, Hoag says. The ERC is the largest research program of its kind in the country, giving the MEES program the faculty and expertise it needs to thrive.

Engineering Professional Development Faculty Associate Wayne Pferdehirt, MEES interim director and director of engineering distance degree programs, adds that the Web-based format of the program came from the success of another online degree program, the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice, which has won several awards for its distance-learning methods.

Hoag says the program overcomes the challenges of distance learning because the students are able to apply what they learn to their current jobs, and exchange knowledge about the engine industry that ranges from smaller lawn and garden engines to ship engines that are worked on with ladders.

Wayne P. Pferdehirt

Wayne P. Pferdehirt (large image)

While many companies that have enrolled students in the program are Wisconsin-based, Hoag says the program is becoming more national and international as it ages, with two non-graduating students in the program taking courses from Dominica and India.