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Voiland’s Engineering and Technology Management program celebrates 40 years

In the early 1980s, the internet had just come into being, and smartphones were still a decade away. 

But, Washington’s technology landscape was booming. Hewlett-Packard was expanding into Washington communities, and WSU leaders saw the need for graduate engineering programs for workers to gain new skills in a fast-changing workplace. 

WSU answered that need with the establishment of the Engineering Management program. The program, now Engineering and Technology Management, is celebrating its 40th year of delivering remote instruction to professionals in engineering and technology fields. The program offers a master’s degree and graduate certificates to equip working professionals with skills to succeed in managerial roles. It has awarded more than 770 master’s degrees and 1,000 certificates to students in 46 states and 30 countries.

John Ringo

“In a sense, we were a maverick program,” said John Ringo, emeritus professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who founded the program. “The university was not accustomed to awarding graduate degrees to students away from campus. We were always on the cutting edge.” 

Industry meets instruction 

To allow professional engineers to attend class, the program adopted a distance learning system nearly a decade before WSU expanded instruction through its Global Campus.

WSU Pullman faculty travelled to Spokane and Tri‑Cities classrooms to teach evening engineering courses in the first iteration of the program. Soon after Hewlett-Packard’s arrival in the state, the Washington state legislature supported development of the Washington Higher Education Training System (WHETS), an early telecommunications system. Classrooms in Spokane, Tri‑Cities, Vancouver and Pullman were outfitted with the new learning system, which was expanded through extension sites in Puyallup and Renton for Boeing employees and others in the greater Seattle area.

Use of a commercial satellite system was soon added, expanding the program’s reach to those around the country. The satellite system was used until faculty and students were widely able to access the internet.

Since its founding, the program has evolved alongside the technology and engineering landscape, catering its coursework to fulfill changing demands.

“We hope that we’re an example of what other programs can do and how they can meet the educational needs of industry partners,” Todd Vanek, director of the ETM program, said.

Todd Vanek

Ringo and Vanek celebrate the program’s uniqueness and practicality, as it departs from the technical side and focuses on the personal.

“For engineers and technology people, it’s really the management component of working with people,” said Vanek. “We are seeing that more in the industry: things like emotional intelligence being just as important as knowing how to manage the technology.”

The program’s curriculum encompasses project and resource management, leadership and strategic organization, which are comprehensively applied through projects.

To celebrate 40 years, the program is hosting three receptions during the month of November. ETM students, friends of the program and those interested in learning more are invited to meet professors in person and discuss career and professional development. The receptions will be held Nov. 8 and 9 on WSU’s Everett and Bremerton campuses, respectively, and on Nov. 10 in Auburn.

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