ADRIAN – Mark Palmer calls himself the “practical doctorate”. Siena Heights University’s new associate professor of engineering is taking this hands-on approach to the classroom.
Palmer, who arrived at SHU for the fall semester, is responsible for developing a general engineering curriculum for the university. For several years, Siena Heights has partnered with the University of North Dakota to offer a dual degree program. Under this arrangement, students earned a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights in their chosen major and also earned an additional bachelor’s degree from UND in mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineering.
“We will continue the partnership with North Dakota, but we are expanding our standalone general engineering program,” Palmer said. “Our students will be able to earn a Siena degree in general engineering as well as a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering from the University of North Dakota. Chemical engineers typically major in chemistry at Siena.
Palmer said the benefit of a generalist engineering program is that students will be able to talk to other engineers as they learn the basics in different disciplines. He said that due to SHU’s liberal arts focus, integrating liberal arts into the engineering curriculum means students will experience the world around them before they go out into the world to design projects. and solve problems. He sees this as a definite advantage.
“The liberal arts component also strengthens an engineer’s marketability when done holistically,” Palmer said. “The program is based on active learning and not just lectures. Students will be required to produce a portfolio before graduation that shows what they have learned. »
He is currently discussing with SHU’s theater department about set engineering assistance. He is also interested in developing collaborations with other academic programs.
“When you think of theater, you change sets frequently, so you have to build things that have mechanical integrity that can move and be switched and are safe,” Palmer said. “Take special effects. It’s chemical. It’s electric. So there’s a lot of engineering that goes on in theater, and what I love is that it’s something that students can see applied quickly.
A licensed professional engineer, Palmer has over 20 years of experience in higher education. He taught in the engineering program at Virginia Commonwealth University and more recently at Kettering University in Flint, where he spent over 16 years. Its specialty is in materials and manufacturing.
Palmer said he focused on the “fundamentals” when building SHU’s engineering program.
“Fundamentals creep into any discipline,” Palmer said. “A mechanical engineer designing a car today has to know about electrical circuits, especially with the advent of electric vehicles. An electrical engineer can design anything, and they have to put the circuit into something that’s going to hold it. Chemical engineers who build factories certainly need to know something about structure.
“I absolutely want it to be based on active learning and not just on lectures. This has been another challenge with the pandemic is that it is very difficult to toss out problems for students to do in class and discuss their progress in problem solving. …I want to see as many practical things as we can do within the budget of the university.
He said teaching engineering in a COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, but he is adapting.
“With engineering, it’s a lot of math,” Palmer said. “You can write it on the board, but you can’t do it from a distance. So you have to write everything down, scan it. This takes lots of time.
He said he is also focusing on accrediting the Siena Heights program through the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. As someone with experience as a program evaluator who helps write licensing exams for engineers, he said he was preparing for accreditation “from day one.”
An Eagle Scout who has been involved in scouting for nearly 40 years, Palmer said that experience helped shape his teaching philosophy.
“(Scouting) is all about teaching by learning and doing, not just hearing something and memorizing it,” Palmer said. “That guided my teaching.”
He said having this basic understanding of different engineering concentrations helps engineers “know who to ask and what questions to ask when they go out into the world and have to deal with other engineers.”
The program actively seeks new projects, internships and partners. And when students graduate from his program, he said, “they will be able to talk to other engineers because they will learn the basics in different disciplines. This is why it is important to be well surrounded. I think the liberal arts component enhances the marketability of an engineer when done holistically, as Siena Heights does.