New Paltz Gets Mechanical Engineering Major

SUNY New Paltz announced a new addition to its lists of majors: students can now choose mechanical engineering as a major.

The new major is a four-year undergraduate program available in addition to preexisting bachelors degrees in electrical and computer engineering and masters degrees in electrical engineering. After the current construction of the Wooster Science and Engineering Building on campus, mechanical engineering students will have a permanent home in the renovated building.

SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian lauded the new major, which he said has been in the works for “about 10 years.”

“It’s been hard for companies to recruit mechanical engineers to the region. Two or three years ago, when we started moving more seriously on the mechanical engineering proposal, we asked the consul of industry  … to do a survey of their members. We got some really good data there on the demand for mechanical engineers, which we incorporated into our proposal,” Christian said. “I think … hearing that link between an academic program and job opportunities and a new program that would build upon our strong engineering programs and diversify them … that had a strong resonance.”

Dan Freedman, dean of science and engineering at New Paltz, also praised the introduction of this new major and explained its background.

“We’ve had electrical engineering since the ‘80s and computer engineering since the ‘90s, but it’s pretty unusual for a campus to have just those engineering fields,” said Freedman. “The reason why is when you look at the engineers out there in the industry, electrical and computer is a pretty good chunk, but it’s something like 20 to 25 percent of engineers. It really doesn’t give the students a lot of choice in terms of fields they can graduate into.”

SUNY New Paltz developed this program to meet demands for mechanical engineers in the Hudson Valley, Freedman explained. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, electrical and computer engineers were in high demand from companies like IBM. Now, the tables have turned, and mechanical engineers are highly sought after for a variety of purposes.

“It’s a really good move for the campus because it really helps develop economic ties with companies in the region,” Freedman said. “They really need mechanical engineers. This is an opportunity for [students] to major in something new … it’s really a fascinating field, there’s a lot of interesting things going on [and] there are a lot of opportunities for jobs in the area. The salaries are pretty good.”

Additionally, Freedman cited the SUNY 2020 initiative for 3D printing at the school as a major component to SUNY New Paltz’s development of this major. Freedman explained how 3D printing has a multitude of practical applications for engineering students and students across other disciplines on campus.

“We’re also doing some really innovative things in putting this program together. The 3D printing program was developed as a collaboration with the art department … we’re also including some of that in how we’ve developed the mechanical engineering program,” Freedman said. “Mechanical engineers design things, and most commonly it’s important that they design something that works mechanically, and needs to stand up to whatever stresses and strains and the device needs to function, but they also need to occasionally make consumer products that are attractive to look at. This is where the appreciation for art and aesthetic that the art department is fantastic at teaching [is so important].”