University Building and Money Wasting

My university is well-known in the automotive industry for turning out the best minds in engineering.  It is NOT well known outside of the auto industry.

It’s small.  I noticed enrollment going down when I was going there; empty dorm rooms, ever smaller classes, and fewer women.  (The school is, at my last estimation, 85% male, and that percentage is growing.)

I just looked at my “Kettering Perspective” and noticed that they were building more buildings!  This is a LEED building (very nice), but I don’t think the school needs more buildings.  They have the Academic building, the Campus Center, the dorm, the Mott building, and the Rec Center.  There are plenty of places to hold classes and labs, matter-of-fact, the “old” chemistry labs were still empty when I was done with classes in 2005.  Granted, they may have filled those rooms by now, but I don’t think they’re at an over-crowding situation yet.

Here’s what I think they need to focus on:

  1. Enrollment.  They need to work on getting students to the school, and then keeping them there.  So many start out at the school, then drop out when they either can’t find a co-op job or can’t hack the classes.  It’s hard.
  2. Women and minorities.  Yes, yes, I’ll get smacked for saying it, but the school has very few women.  Part of it is their attitude.  “We can’t have a woman live in the ‘quiet unit’; the other girl dropped out.” Uhm, I’m not a “normal” woman… Those are freshmen you’re pairing me with; I’m 23 (I was at the time); those boys are jailbait.  Apparently, a woman can’t go to a mostly male school without sleeping with every guy she meets.
  3. Job search after graduation.  I’m not having much luck with their “services”.  Mostly, it’s a website that has job postings for mid- to senior level people (mostly men) and nothing that’s for someone with her co-op and 1 year experience.  I know the market sucks right now, but they could do something besides linking to Monster, right?
  4. Cost.  Whoa momma, if you look at the cost for an education there, you’d crap your pants!  They say that your “co-op” will cover a lot of your expenses.  Uhm, no.  Not everyone gets a cushy job at GM with a free apartment.  I had to keep an apartment down in the Auburn Hills area, effectively paying double rent.  So, no, I didn’t get any help with housing, and my piddly wages from my job didn’t cover the cost of it.  I literally saved every penny I earned so I could pay for rent.  I still (unfortunately) operate on that mindset, so I don’t spend money when I can and should.  I’ll go without for a very long time before getting something.
  5. Being truthful to new students.  Tell them about the difficulties of getting a co-op job; the lay-offs, the difficult classes… all that.  I knew about how hard the classes were before I started, but has no clue how difficult it would be securing a co-op job.  Took me forever, and I was accused of “not trying”.  If I wasn’t trying, then why was I spending all that time on the internet and all the time bugging my co-op manager and all the time going on interviews all over the midwest (when I couldn’t afford the gas)?
  6. Encouraging the Greek system.  Kettering has been effectively trying to kill the Greek system since I started there.  They have hoops the Greeks have to jump through as well as stringent rules and requirements.  Much of it is put upon the Greek community itself, but the school is very effective in forcing the Greeks into a small niche.  It also doesn’t help that most of the RA’s are anti-Greek; the first opinion you get when you enter campus is your RA’s, and if they’re anti-Greek, then you probably won’t join a fraternity or a sorority.
  7. Encourage other courses of study besides mechanical engineering.  Many non-ME students feel overshadowed by the ME influence.

If Kettering tries these things, I think things will be better for students.

Why they  need more buildings is beyond me.  Enrollment is down because students can’t get jobs and because the school is very cost prohibitive.

9 thoughts on “University Building and Money Wasting”

  1. Well, new buildings are sometimes useful in competing against other schools. Even if they’re only hangars to park things, they contribute to “prestige”. Granted, that isn’t worth much any more but it still fits the paradigm too many schools operate within.

  2. “Prestige” my patoot.

    They need to prove to me that they have the ability to recruit and keep students of all types (including women). As it stands, I won’t be donating any money to them. Ever. They waste too much of it on crap like extra buildings.

    You know what they will use the buildings for? “Community Events”. Ie, stuff for people (who aren’t even students) to participate in. They already do this with the Rec Center. That was one of the things they stressed: “There will be no competition to use the Rec Center, since we have no sports teams here”. I had to deal with kids all the time who weren’t students who were using the facilities. Maybe I’m bitter, but if you’re going to have something that’s available to *all* students *all* of the time, then make sure it’s available.

    I just think the school should be focusing on the students. They’ve gotten away from it recently. Focus on students was one of the things they touted when I did my campus visit.

    I guess my argument is, why spend all the money for a KU degree when you can go to MSU or UM for a fraction of the cost? And go to a regular campus, instead of a shitty inner-city ghetto “campus” next to some of the toughest neighborhoods in Michigan?

  3. A little perspective, from inside the bell tower …

    The building is supposed to be essentially an incubator for new businesses. Suppose you’re an ME (not you specifically, of course), and you’ve got a great idea for a new business that involves some light manufacturing … but you don’t have the cash to buy a building, outfit it with all the high-tech equipment you need, and actually develop and sell the product. Most likely, the idea dies.

    The new building is meant to solve that issue. We’ll be renting out space in the facility to start-up businesses, properly zoned for light industrial work. Combined with the Small Business Innovation Center already in place, this will provide a lot of support for people trying to start new businesses and therefore create jobs. And, the rent will hopefully pay for the costs of the building, if not make money in the long run.

    At least, that’s the pitch. I don’t know if it’ll work. But it has the merit of being bold and daring. It also may be one tiny little way that Kettering helps the Flint economy by trying to create some jobs.

    As to all the other stuff you mentioned: they are working on a lot of that stuff. Enrollment is a big emphasis; having a permanent VP for enrollment for the past year is going to help that immensely. They’re starting to seriously promote programs other than ME, particularly in the sciences. Yes, the underrepresented numbers suck, and while they haven’t been successful in increasing those numbers, they’re at least trying. And I could respond to the rest, but this is getting long.

  4. It sounds like the primary issue is that the primary issue is that the school has found a niche that they are working hard to stay in, even though the current economy suggests that they should be broadening their market reach.

    If the only business entities out there that know what type of students you produce are in the automotive industry, then you rely upon the continued well being of that industry for your ongoing existence. Additionally if that is your market, the people being recommended for your school are primarily going to be recommended by people in that industry. “For a job like yours, what are some schools you would recommend?”

    With the troubles the big 3 have been seeing, and Ford has apparently been planning around, many of those industry related businesses are not going to get that question. They are also going to be looking for ways of reducing operating expenses, one of which is going to be reducing the amount they spend on hiring people with the intention of teaching them the industry, especially when that person comes with co-op education expenses.

    As an observation regarding other markets that can make use of the education that one gets in mechanical engineering, biotech medical instruments need designers who understand fluid dynamics, and even in today’s economy is a growing business. As seen in the south, food handling and preparation is fairly highly industrialized these days. While components of our diet may be changing, I suspect that we are not going to give up on eating any time soon. I am of two minds on my next thought, which is the entertainment industry. While the tools are a bit different between the mechanical engineering and design field for the automotive industry and the 3d effects industry, I would suspect that there is a significant amount of overlap. On the other hand I would suspect that the way that much of the intent is to give a ‘realistic’ feel to something that either doesn’t happen, or doesn’t happen as depicted, could cause issues.

    There are certainly other areas to consider. However many, such as the legal field, will be looking for recognized expertise, rather than as a place to build experience.

  5. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to reply earlier to your posts; life somehow got in the way.

    @Jim Huggins: Very good points. However, I still feel that the school should be providing for the students before the community. I don’t feel any love for Flint.

    This “start-up” incubator thing might be good. Will it provide jobs to students? Will it allow alumni to come back and use it? If not, it does not directly improve students lives, and only serves to alienate the students from the “management” (the zillion vice-presidents) even more. Will they concentrate on having many different degree programs represented, or will it all be mechanical engineering? The school needs to diversify.

    @Rusty: I agree with all your points, but your last one.

    I ask you this: If they only hire people with “experience” how does one get “experience” when nobody will hire you?

  6. As I understand it … the incubator will be open to everyone, including alumni. And, yes, clients will be encouraged to hire Kettering co-ops students — though, as with any employer, that’s completely their decision. It’s not restricted to ME clients only … but with the emphasis on light manufacturing in the facility, I suspect that there will be more ME clients than others.

    And beyond those benefits … it may benefit student life in less-direct ways. The building will bring more people to Third Avenue to work, rather than causing mischief. If you get enough people in the area, that can lead to other light commerce moving in (like a Starbucks or a deli), and so on. Eventually, that’ll drive some of the riff-raff out of the area … and that’s where students benefit.

    Plus, it does good things for Flint … which improves relationships between Kettering and the city of Flint, which makes the city more likely to do nice things for Kettering.

  7. @Jim Huggins: Good. Glad to hear it’s not only for ME clients. Although I figure that ME applications need more “stuff” than EE or CE/CS (equipment, etc).

    That is something the school needs; a Starbucks, deli, etc. The only thing they have is the convenience store across the street. Nothing is accessible via walking; most places you need a car.

    They do need something to drive the riff-raff out… I’ve been thinking about a police unit that drives down the street at various times during the night. That would help a lot.

    Improvement of that corridor is a very good thing.

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