VOLUME 33, NUMBER 13 THURSDAY, December 6, 2001

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Dean Millar is assistant dean for corporate relations in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He joined the SEAS staff in 1994 after retiring from the Praxair Technology Center as human resources manager.

The School of Engineering has made a concerted effort to go beyond academics in preparing students for the workplace. Isn't a degree from a good engineering school enough any more?
UB has an excellent engineering and applied sciences school. We teach all the necessary subjects to give our students a foundation for a successful career. In order for our students to be as successful as possible, however, an additional dimension can really help, and that dimension is experience. That's where the Engineering Career Institute and Co-op Program come in.

What is the Engineering Career Institute?
We founded the Engineering Career Institute (ECI) in 1994 to give our post-junior-year students a unique opportunity to supplement our strong technical curriculum with paid summer technical-employment opportunities, preceded by career-success classes. Subjects include leadership, teamwork, total quality management, value engineering, dealing with people on the job, public speaking and effective writing. Our pre-employment classes feature more than 30 speakers from industry, including company presidents, a chief financial officer, project managers and entrepreneurs, all of whom are experts in their subject areas and give our students a focused look at the real world and what is expected of them in the workplace. This combination of pre-employment classes and job experience gives the students a jump-start in their career launch, since, by the end of their ECI/Co-op experience, they can apply their engineering fundamentals and produce quantifiable and value-added results. This looks great on their resumes and gives them a real edge in getting a substantial job by the time they graduate. We teach our students how to write a competitive resume, interview effectively and use our Internet-based, job-placement process in order to find the most appropriate student employment. Meanwhile, we invite 1,700 employer contacts to use our automated process to hire UB engineering students. More program information is available on our Web site at www.eng-intern.buffalo.edu.

What is the Co-op Program? Why did the school institute it?
The Co-op Program is similar to the Engineering Career Institute in that it supplements classroom education with employment experience. The Co-op Program, however, extends the employment to 10 months by providing two or three work sessions. The Co-op Program extends the student's graduation by one semester. Many students and employers feel that this is worth it, since it gives students more time to get depth and breadth of experience. I am pleased to say that the faculty of our engineering school provided the impetus to begin the Co-op Program in 1997, having seen the success of the Engineering Career Institute.

What kind of reaction are you getting from the companies where our students work?
The continuous company feedback has been very gratifying. We ask them to rank their satisfaction with the program and our students; the ratings of both are very high. Time and again, we hear how our students are technically competent, highly motivated and produce value-added results to the companies they serve. We have a Success Stories link on our Web site www.eng-intern.buffalo.edu, which gives examples of how our students have saved more than $1 million dollars at a sampling of just 13 companies. Lesley Weitz, a senior mechanical engineering student, co-oped at General Motors Power Train in Tonawanda. Her outstanding performance there—including being part of a four-person team that increased engine test acceptance rate by 40 percent while decreasing the scrap rate by 60 percent—resulted in the honor of "2001 Co-op Student of the Year" by the New York State Co-operative and Experimental Education Association (NYSCEEA).

How do students and employers benefit from the student work experience programs?
This is truly a win-win-win proposition for students and employers, as well as the university. The students gain increased relevance of their engineering curriculum and preparation for the real world of employment. They learn the non-technical skills of leadership, empowerment, teamwork, communication, etc., which are vital to career success. The exposure to a hands-on, engineering-employment situation gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their technical, leadership and teamwork skills. This enhances their marketability and increases their potential for a permanent job offer from their sponsoring company or other employers. The employers, meanwhile, are able to assign useful work to qualified students and evaluate those students as prospective employees based on their work performance. They are getting a lot of bang for their buck when our students bring home increased profits and reduced costs. UB benefits by increasing the relevance of the engineering curriculum to employer needs by supplementing technical coursework with results-oriented skill development. This enhances the marketability of our School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to students and employers, improves student placement and, in general, develops a closer and more positive relationship with industry.

How's the job market for entry-level engineers?
There always is a need for engineers with fresh technical skills, particularly if they have taken advantage of all that we have to offer. It's in tougher economic times like these when a student's competitive edge of having ECI or Co-op experience really pays off.

You had a full career in industry before coming to UB. Why step into the academic environment?
I had a full career—28 years—with Union Carbide, Linde Division, which later became Praxair Inc. I retired from Praxair and came to UB in February 1994 at the invitation of George Lee, who was dean of engineering and applied sciences at the time. He is the visionary who correctly foresaw the need and benefit of an Engineering Career Institute with pre-employment classes and paid, credit-bearing work experience. Bob Barnes, associate dean for external affairs, also was instrumental in formulating and laying the foundation for the Engineering Career Institute. I have found this transition to the university to be extremely rewarding. I am able to use my industrial experience and contacts to the benefit of our students. I feel that our School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has top-notch administration, faculty, students and programs. Our current dean, Mark Karwan, and faculty advisors have been most supportive. It is a privilege to be a part of this team. It's especially great to know that we are making a positive contribution toward the future career and life success of our students. I believe that ECI and Co-op students will be all the prouder to be active and supporting alumni in the future.

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
My question would be: What are the results of your work-experience programs? How have the students done afterward? We receive questionnaire feedback from the students during the program and survey them six months after graduation. Results have been extremely positive. Many have received job offers from their student employers and most have obtained good jobs by the time they graduate or very shortly thereafter.

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