University of Wisconsin-Stout has been named one of the top U.S. public colleges offering plastics engineering programs by Plastics Today, a publication and site for plastics professionals.
UW-Stout is one of eight universities noted in the article for the polymer/plastics engineering programs.
“Our plastics engineering program is well-recognized by the plastics field,” said Wei Zheng, program director and associate professor in the plastics engineering program. Sixty students are enrolled currently in the program at UW-Stout and 18 first-year students started the program last fall, which is a higher number than in the past few years, Zheng noted.
“The program has a 100% employment rate and a $64,000 starting salary for 2018-2019,” Zheng said. “The program also offers applied curriculum, exceptional laboratory, strong industry collaboration and exclusive scholarships. This is the area that is in high demand particularly of the Mid West region. It is also a discipline that integrates math, science and engineering to solve practical problems. I encourage every student who is interested in designing and making plastics products and understanding plastics materials to join our program.”
Gindy Neidermyer, interim dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management, said the ranking places UW-Stout on the list of top schools.
“This means that our students are career-ready and according to our industry stakeholder views, our program is meeting our ultimate goal of preparing our graduates for their careers,” Neidermyer said. “We are working to share the news that plastics are a part of our future; affordable, dependable, and flexible in engineering to meet the changing needs of our society. The plastics of the future are a part of maintaining a sustainable global environment when the engineering is well developed. Our society needs thoughtful engineers to design ways that allow plastics to ‘live’ better with us in our world. Becoming a plastics engineer graduate from UW-Stout will create a new path for plastics to be a smarter part of our global future.
In the Plastics Today article, it is noted one of the hurdles in the misconception that manufacturing is dingy, dirty and sweaty. Smart manufacturing has changed that and those born between 1997 and 2012 are getting the message. According to a survey conducted by Leading2Lean, young people today look more positively on manufacturing and are more inclined to consider it as a career than previous generations, the article noted.
“Another handicap that is specific to the plastics industry is the vilification of plastics among the general population,” the article stated. “In a word, plastics technology is not cool, at best, and that can be a real hurdle when you are trying to interest young people in a career.”
Zheng also noted the importance of plastics in people’s lives. “Plastics have improved our lives in many ways that sometimes we take for granted,” she noted. “For example, plastics have advanced medical devices, developed lightweight automotive components, manufactured new materials for construction, apparel, and many other aspects of our lives. At the same time, we are all aware of the environmental problem. I would like to advocate that there is really nothing wrong with plastics, if there is, it is with us since we did not take care of them properly afterward. And because of the problem, now we particularly need plastics engineering to figure out solutions.”
The other universities that are part of the list include Auburn University, Auburn, Ala.; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; Pennsylvania State University Erie-Behrend College, Erie, Pa.; University of Akron, Akron, Ohio; University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, Mass.; University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Miss.; and Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
UW-Stout also was ranked No. 7 of 11 schools ranked by stateuniversity.com as most popular for polymer and plastics engineering majors.
UW-Stout is one of the two schools – the other is the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET for its plastics engineering program that is part of the Plastics Today article. ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that accredits programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.
Neidermyer noted this accreditation will afford UW-Stout graduates a competitive edge in the job market. “ABET accreditation is a sign of quality curriculum that has been continuously reviewed for delivery of the outcomes needed for the engineers of our future,” she said.
UW-Stout offers a bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering. The university also offers bachelor degrees in computer and electrical engineering, engineering technology, manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering and packaging.
Ten $1,500 scholarships and one $500 scholarship are available to incoming first-year UW-Stout plastics engineering students in the fall.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
UW-Stout’s plastics engineering program offers exclusive scholarships for students. Pictured is a student working in the UW-Stout Plastics Lab.