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Leo Kempel: MSU College of Engineering seeks to convert students into tomorrow’s innovators

MSU College of Engineering
Leo Kempel

“The mission of the College of Engineering really hasn’t changed since its founding over 100 years ago,” says Leo Kempel, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Engineering. “Its role is to convert an 18-year-old right out of high school into a professional of tomorrow.

“We think of ourselves as the people who convert a student into a technical innovator of tomorrow.”

Dean Kempel talks about the growing and diverse student body in the college. And he says “many of our students come better prepared to pursue an engineering education now than in the past.” And he says logistically dealing with a growing student body “is a good challenge.

“It means there’s a lot of interest in our programs and in engineering as a profession. As long as the employment picture for engineers remains strong, I don’t see our numbers going down.”

And he talks about the world-class research underway throughout the college. Three of his examples:

Biometrics. MSU is an international leader using the power of algorithms and computations to conduct pioneering work in eye movement, and face, iris and fingerprint recognition applications.

Mobility and Autonomy. MSU and the College of Engineering are making a major investment in the people and technology needed to solve real-life driving problems – from making autonomous driving smarter and safer to preventing accidents to improving traffic flow. The College’s CANVAS Center is the centerpiece of a multi-disciplinary mobility effort that includes smart infrastructure and mobility management. MSU joins the extraordinary efforts going on in Michigan to integrate vehicles into their environment to make mobility safer for all of us.

Fraunhofer USA. A $7 million addition to the Fraunhofer USA facilities in the Engineering Research Center will be the new home of an almost $4 million piece of equipment that will strengthen Fraunhofer USA’s Tech to Market efforts. The new equipment will allow Fraunhofer to do research for larger companies. The MSU center fully integrates research, industry and government.

Kempel adds that “we can’t do what we need to do as a college and as a university and as a community without the generosity of our donors.”

Kempel cites the example of the $1 million Wielenga Creative Engineering Endowed Professorship. Thomas Wielenga, Class of 1978, established the endowed professorship to kick-start the next teaching paradigm in order to shorten the length of time needed to complete a mechanical engineering degree.

Looking ahead Kempel says “the challenges and opportunities for our college are really about making sure that we’re here for the students. That we’re here to help them realize their dreams. That we’re here to make sure that they have opportunities for experiences that allow them to craft the future they want and make wise choices.” And he says it’s important for the college to have an inclusive and diverse culture.

“We also need to make sure we have the pipeline to internship and co-op opportunities so that the students can connect with companies and potential employers early in their college careers.”

Ninety seven percent of students in the college are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation; average starting salary for graduates is $66,500, says Kempel.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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