With the recent development of a new mechanical engineering major at SUNY New Paltz, as well as the announcement of a $10 million grant to construct a “mechanical engineering hub” on campus, Professors Jared Nelson and Kevin Shanley are two key players who will prepare students for careers in this in-demand field.
While both professors are relatively new to campus – Shanley is in his second year at SUNY New Paltz, and Nelson came on board in fall 2014 semester – both bring a breadth of industry knowledge to the new mechanical engineering program, which will fulfill both an industry need and a student desire.
“I think SUNY New Paltz is in a really great position to enter the field of mechanical engineering,” said Nelson. “There’s a strong existing engineering program here currently for electrical and computer – a lot of great students, a lot of great faculty. Adding mechanical to that just broadens the base of what we can offer students.”
Nelson said graduates of the mechanical engineering program at SUNY New Paltz will have a creative edge over many engineers in the industry who lack critical thinking and creative skills.
“Building on what SUNY New Paltz is good at and what it’s known for, I think we have a really unique opportunity to develop mechanical engineering students who have a strong creative background, which is really what is lacking from the people I’ve talked to in the industry,” said Nelson. “Students coming out have a good, fundamental understanding of engineering concepts, but they’re not really good at thinking or creating. Their problem-solving skills could be broadened by incorporating other things that we are looking to incorporate, such as metal work, sculpture, working with the art department, and other aspects students can get from liberal arts.”
There has been a big push at the federal level in the last three-to-five years to reinvest in advanced manufacturing within the United States to try to bolster U.S. competitiveness, said Shanley. “That means jobs for engineers, and specifically mechanical engineers. We’re simply not graduating enough qualified engineers every year to fill the jobs that are out there. Most of these jobs are in the manufacturing sector, in design. Before coming to SUNY New Paltz, Shanley spent years working in the industry, including positions with IBM, the Naval Research Laboratory, and Rolls-Royce Corporation. However, he said he’d been looking for the chance to become a professor for quite some time.
“Teaching is something I’ve always known I wanted to do,” said Shanley. “I took that job with Rolls-Royce because it was available when I was graduating, but I kept doing research, publishing papers, and making sure I was qualified to come back to academia. When this opportunity came up, I jumped on it.”
Shanley received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University, his Master of Science degree in applied physics at the University of Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering, also from Clarkson University.
Nelson holds a Ph.D. from Montana State University, as well as his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from University of Utah, all in mechanical engineering. He previously served as a principal engineer with Gradient Engineering; a principal with JW Engineering; and a manufacturing engineer with MacLean Quality Composites.