October 05, 2005

SIUC program ranked as nation’s best Automotive technology captures top honors

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s automotive technology program once again ranks as the nation’s top automotive post-secondary education program.

SIUC is the national winner of the Automotive Industry Planning Council’s Award of Excellence for 2005. This is the third time the program has received the award – also being judged the nation’s top program in 1991 and 1999. National winners cannot compete again for the award, which started in 1984, for five years.

“Any time you have that type of recognition from the industry you serve, that speaks volumes for the quality of your faculty and students,” department chair Jack S. Greer said. “This national ranking validates that we have a high quality program.”

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said he is very pleased with the announcement. “We have a first-class program and are pleased it will soon be housed in a first-class facility,” Wendler said. “The program will join SIUC’s award-winning aviation programs at the Transportation Education Center, to be constructed at the Southern Illinois Airport. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich came to the region to announce the release of planning money for the new center about a month ago.”

SIUC’s nationally recognized program is in select company – it is only the second three-time winner in the award’s history. Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., is also a three-time winner.

“We are delighted the program has won this award,” said Paul D. Sarvela, Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. “It’s another feather in the cap of the automotive technology faculty, staff, students and alumni. It serves as a good indicator of program excellence.”

Founded more than 50 years ago, the Automotive Industry Planning Council, based in Leesburg, Va., includes representatives from automotive manufacturers, affiliated industry partners, educators and school administrators.

Judges grade competitors on nine specific areas: overall program description, advisory council makeup, instructional resources, faculty and staff, equipment, program facilities, program accomplishments, letters of support, and presentation packet.

“Without question, SIUC is an outstanding automotive technology program and provides a terrific education to students who are seeking to enter into a career as an automotive technician,” said Mary Hutchinson, executive director of the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and AIPC executive secretary.

There are many significant factors that go into the strength of the program, which has 175 students this year, Greer said. Faculty and staff, students, and manufacturers’ support play pivotal roles, he said.

“You can’t break those three apart; you have to have all three to make it work,” he said.

Manufacturers’ support is “absolutely critical” to the program’s continuing success, Sarvela said. On average, the program annually receives about $500,000 from manufacturers – usually in the form of new cars.

“Our students are able to then learn everything there is to learn about these new cars and are ready to move directly into the workforce upon completing their degree,” Sarvela said.

SIUC will receive the award in December during the Association for Career and Technical Education convention in Kansas City.

Shaping high-quality undergraduate programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.