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Union’s engineering program receives support from local industry

JACKSON, Tenn.Oct. 2, 2001 – Local leaders of Jackson industry recently met with Union University administration and faculty to discuss the new engineering program on campus, the first of its kind in Jackson and the surrounding area.

Maytag, Porter Cable/Delta, Tennalum, Ameristeel, Jackson Energy Authority as well as the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce were all represented, showing their support and excitement for the new academic program.

“Though we’re a manufacturing-based facility, we also have research and development areas in our plant as well,” said Jim Starkweather, vice president and general manager at Maytag in Jackson. “For our employees who are aspiring for additional benefits and promotions, this new engineering degree will be very suitable. They didn’t have any opportunities before – now they do, and it will help us grow internally as a result.”

Many of those in attendance agreed that the opportunities for engineers in Jackson have been very limited in terms of education and training. Mark Lane, administrative manager at Tennalum in Jackson, sees the new engineering program at Union as a great tool for recruiting good engineers to his plant.

“I think a lot of prospective employees we talk to will be very interested in staying on the leading edge of technology, which they will now be able to do, thanks to Union,” said Lane.

“From an economic development standpoint, we noticed a lot of companies with a strong engineering presence, but no engineering schools nearby,” explained Bob Cook, president and CEO of Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. “Dr. David Dockery and Union University stepped up to the challenge and led our community in a strategic response plan – this new engineering program will be a powerful tool to attract more growth for this industry.”

The program, which began its first semester this fall with 16 students, is led by Don Van, associate professor of engineering and chair of the newly formed department.

Van, who came to Union after working in the corporate world for more than 20 years, said it is a dream come true to have the opportunity to do something “that impacts people in a positive way,” and he pointed out that the entire vision of the engineering program began with key local industry leaders.

“The vision started with the business leaders of Jackson,” said Van, “and they will be given every encouragement from us to sustain what we intend to be an excellent undergraduate engineering program.”

For more information on the engineering program at Union, contact the Department of Engineering at (731) 661-5534.

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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