CORRECTION: In the print version of this story, the final quote from William Koepf in paragraph 22 hosts a typo that mischaracterizes Koepf’s position. The quote should read, “I really can stand up here and say that this has been done with the best interest of the students,” Koepf said.
The closure of the electrical/electronic engineering technology program has left many students at a crossroads of waiting, transferring or changing their major.
An informational meeting took place in the Swann building on Nov. 10. Students, faculty and staff attended, with Dean Mike Staley of the College of Engineering Technology leading. Staley explained the closure and held a Q&A session with students.
“The best path forward for the program [and] for the students was to teach out the programs and create a new program,” Staley said. “The program we will create will be around robotics automation control, which is kind of the future of engineering technology.”
Staley explained that the decision for the closure stemmed from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s assessment. According to Staley, the ABET’s standards are very high. The one deficiency outlined in the ABET report was that the program’s improvements “were made outside of the assessment data collection and reflection process.” Staley explained one potential course of action following the deficiency.
“We would have to create this process, and then we would have to collect data,” Staley said. “The courses where we have outcomes being assessed, whether it’s exams, projects or any other kind of assessment tools, we would have maybe fall and spring to do that. We have to reflect on that data, make a continuous improvement plan and implement the plan to show we actually made some change.”
Staley added that if they were to have done this, they wouldn’t have had a full summer semester to show implementation. This posed a risk to both Staley and the students, one he wasn’t comfortable with taking. Despite Staley’s explanations and him answering questions throughout the meeting, students from the EEET program were shocked and unhappy with the closure.
The EEET program requires students to get their associates degree before pursuing their bachelors. The closure poses an issue for freshman and sophomores, as they will no longer be able to earn their bachelor’s degree in the program. For sophomore Abraham Evanzo, this change impacts him and his future heavily.
“I have put a great amount of risk into coming back to school, rather than just continuing to work,” Evanzo said. “By doing that, I have had to dip into massive amounts of my personal savings to come here. I want a [bachelor’s] in EEET. That’s why I came here. If I want to get that now, I have to go to a new school. The closest one is Central Michigan… I have to move hours away to be able to get this degree now.”
Evanzo described the abrupt announcement of the closure as the rug being pulled out from under him. Evanzo wasn’t the only frustrated student. Many students were critical of Staley and his reasoning behind the closure.
In a separate interview, Evanzo’s words were echoed by second year student John Bacha.
“Think of the school as ‘Aladdin,’” Bacha said. “We came to them saying we want to be successful in life. ‘That’s all I want, Genie. What are you gonna give me?’ They gave us the tools and the magic carpet to fly through the world and chase our dreams, and then they rip the carpet from beneath us, and now we are falling towards the Earth.”
Multiple students wished they had learned the news sooner. Some claim that their academic advisors previously encouraged them to change majors. Students are also confused as to why a successful program had to close.
Junior Manuel Paniagua has been told by employers he’s interned for that what Ferris does in this program is “amazing” and something they’d never seen before in college.
Dr. Robert Most is the only full time professor of the program. He and adjunct professor Dr. Al Palmer both remarked on the program’s high placement rate.
“We have over 100% placement. What does that mean?… Every graduate that we have gets multiple job offers,” Most said.
In the first week of October, faculty first learned about the closure during a meeting discussing ABET accreditation. Most felt “blindsided” by the news.
“On behalf of our program, I truly apologize to the families, to the parents and to whoever is supporting these students because, you know, I think that they expected a four year degree, and the freshmen and sophomores will not get that four year degree, and I’m sincerely sorry for that,” Most said.
Most has told his students that he wants them to feel comfortable in talking about this because he believes it’ll help them all accept it.
“I told my students, ‘anytime that you guys feel like you need to talk about this, we’ll set time aside in class, we’ll put our pens away and we’ll just have a group discussion about this.’ I think talking about it is really an important part of a healing process, which needs to happen at this point,” Most said.
Director of the School of Engineering and Computing Technology Bill Koepf had recently stepped up to take the position in August. During this process, his job has been to help coordinate and schedule meetings with students.
Koepf describes his relationships with his students as “tight” as they share their concerns of the status of their jobs now that the program is shutting down. Koepf empathizes with his students who feel inconvenienced. Still, he understands the amount of work, time and money that was put into this trying to save the program.
“I really can stand up here and say that this has been done with the best interest of the students,” Koepf said. “It crushes me to hear them say that this was a financial decision. If they could only see the amount of hours that we’ve put in trying to solve this dilemma. No matter how you look at this, this is not something any of us wanted to go through.”
The groundwork for the new program is currently being laid, but there is no solid timetable for the program’s debut.