WMU Program Offers Accelerated Master's

December 3, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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KALAMAZOO — This year, for the first time, Western Michigan University will offer its mechanical and aeronautical engineering undergrads an option to earn an accelerated master’s degree.

University officials said the new accelerated program comes in response to executives who say they want newly minted mechanical engineers with more advanced technical training. The program seamlessly dovetails undergraduate and graduate course work, giving qualified majors in those disciplines a chance to enroll at WMU as freshmen and leave five years later with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

“An estimated 60 percent of those now graduating from engineering programs will eventually get a master’s degree. Industry is looking for more and more graduates with the kind of technical skills you only acquire in graduate school,” said Dr. Timothy Greene, dean of WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“In today’s highly technical climate, companies need people with specialized expertise who can provide innovation and a competitive advantage. Our accelerated mechanical engineering program gives students that specialized expertise, and in the shortest amount of time possible.”

Greene said he expects some of this year’s juniors to opt for the accelerated program. Western has 584 undergrads enrolled in mechanical engineering and 38 grad students pursuing a master’s degree.

He added that the new accelerated program is also a useful recruiting tool when the university is talking to prospective engineering students.

“We let them know that if you want to go straight to your master’s, we can accelerate you through that,” said Greene.

Many undergrads perceive a master’s degree as a major undertaking and are intimidated by it. Greene said the accelerated program is a way to “show them that (obtaining a master’s degree) is not such a big deal after all. It’s just a natural next step” for many students.

Dr. Parviz Merati, chairperson of the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, said the accelerated option is an appealing career track for talented, highly motivated undergraduate students.

“It’s an opportunity for our top-notch engineering undergraduates to shorten by a year the time it would take to earn a master’s degree,” said Merati, who serves as the accelerated program’s undergraduate advisor.

“WMU’s engineering school already has a reputation for producing highly competent graduates who can make immediate contributions to their employers. The accelerated program is another way we’re giving them an edge and preparing them for future success,” Merati added. “When our students leave this program, they’ll stand out because they’ll have a master’s degree in hand — proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re exceptionally focused, hard-working and capable people.”

During their undergraduate careers, students in the accelerated program may substitute up to 12 credit hours of graduate course work for undergraduate course work. Once they enter graduate school, they’re able to quickly move through the master’s degree requirements because they’ve already taken several graduate classes.

For the substituted courses to count, those participating in the accelerated program must maintain a good grade point average and finish their master’s degree within two years of finishing a bachelor’s degree in either mechanical or aeronautical engineering. The total amount of combined credits students need to earn varies slightly, depending on whether they elect to complete a graduate-level thesis.

“One of the great things about the accelerated program is that it allows us to admit students to the graduate program earlier than normal,” Merati said. “This enhances the overall quality and value of the program because students are better able to plan their studies, and we’re better able to integrate our undergraduate and graduate courses.”

For more information, contact Dr. Koorosh Naghshineh, graduate advisor for the accelerated bachelor’s/master’s degree in mechanical engineering, at koorosh.naghshineh@wmich.edu or (269) 386-3431.

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