ROCKFORD, Aug. 24 — Aspiring engineers soon will be able to earn bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering in Rockford, thanks to a new partnership announced today by Rock Valley College (RVC) and Northern Illinois University (NIU).
Beginning in fall 2016, area students with associate’s degrees in engineering science will be able to pursue one of three bachelor’s degrees in engineering from the NIU College of Engineering & Engineering Technology on the RVC campus. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in engineering can earn a master’s degree.
RVC President Mike Mastroianni and NIU President Doug Baker were flanked by industry, education and community leaders as they announced the establishment of the NIU-RVC Engineering Program and signed a Letter of Intent. Collaboration with industry is an essential element of the program, with Woodward and UTC Aerospace Systems leading the way in providing students with opportunities for experiential learning, internships and employment.
“We are proud to expand NIU’s partnership with RVC with the establishment of this unique industry-integrated, community-based program,” said Dr. Doug Baker, president of Northern Illinois University. “Engineering is an integral component of the innovation economy and the combination of academic preparation and real-world experience this program provides make it a real winner for students and the companies that will hire them.”
“This is an exciting opportunity for us to clear a path for our engineering students to earn an associate’s degree at RVC, then a bachelor’s degree through NIU, while staying in Rockford to do it,” said Mike Mastroianni, president of Rock Valley College. “With potential for internships and permanent employment, this is a new way to truly access our local talent and provide the channel toward valuable careers in engineering.”
Education, industry and community leaders agree that the NIU-RVC Engineering Program addresses students’ educational needs, industry workforce demands and community aspirations.
“There is no question that innovative partnerships are the key component to transforming our region,” said Frank Haney, chairman of the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees. “NIU is a longtime partner with RVC and this program further demonstrates a mutual commitment to providing a pipeline of engineering talent to industry in the region.”
Dr. Promod Vohra, dean of the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, noted that engineering is often the vehicle for innovation, economic development and societal reform.
“We are excited to partner with RVC and our industry partners to empower the youth of the region and to help them develop competitive skills to ensure success in the global economy,” Dean Vohra said. “Hundreds of NIU engineering graduates are already working in the region and making a difference. This partnership is the result of more than two decades of hard work, collaboration and understanding. We can’t wait to get started.”
The NIU-RVC Engineering Program offers clear pathways that allow students to move seamlessly through the stages of academic preparation, pre-career experience and employment with area companies. Industry partners will provide the critical link to the workplace.
“In order to continually innovate new aerospace products and solutions, our UTC Aerospace Systems businesses in Rockford rely on recruiting top engineering and technical talent,” said Bob Guirl, director of strategy and development, Electric Systems. “This program should help us identify those students earlier, mentor them, and retain them after graduation, to work at local businesses like ours.”
Sagar Patel, president of Aircraft Turbine Systems, Woodward and chairman of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) commented on the impact of the program on the region’s manufacturing sector.
“We are in the midst of a manufacturing renaissance and engineers are at the core of it. Now, the Rockford region will be able to grow our own engineering talent and provide a big boost to our advanced manufacturing companies. This is exciting and historic! On behalf of RAEDC investors, I thank NIU and RVC leadership for coming together to make this happen.”
The NIU-RVC announcement comes at a time when the community is actively engaged in a comprehensive transformation initiative. Guests at the news conference signed a banner declaring their support of the new program and affirming that as a community, “we are better together.”
“The NIU-RVC Engineering Program will be a very significant step toward achieving our community’s vision regarding education and economic development,” said Mike Schablaske, executive director of Transform Rockford. “In addition, this is important because it shows how we partner and align as a community to transform the region and achieve our shared vision. Thank you to NIU and RVC and their partners for their commitment to our region.”
Leading up to the fall 2016 semester, RVC and NIU will host a series of events during which students can learn more about the program, meet with academic advisors and talk with industry leaders.
More information is available at www.rockvalleycollege.edu/engineering.