May 13, 2010
Michael Behrmann to lead automotive technologyCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Associate Professor Michael B. Behrmann will be the new chair in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Automotive Technology.
Terry A. Owens, interim dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, recently announced Behrmann’s appointment. Behrmann will succeed Jack S. Greer, who will retire June 30 after almost 33 years with the nationally recognized program, including the last 13-and-one-half years as chair. Behrmann will begin his appointment July 1.
“I’m excited because when you take a look at the faculty and staff we have, the support of our alumni and automotive industry and the quality of our students, the opportunities for the program are endless,” Behrmann said.
“It’s just a thrill to be associated with the nation’s premier automotive program,” he said.
Owens said Behrmann is an active faculty member who has strong connections with the program’s alumni, which will be extremely important with construction of the estimated 200,000-square-foot Transportation Education Center. The facility, planned for the Southern Illinois Airport, will house the automotive and aviation programs. Construction will likely begin this summer with a two-year completion schedule.
Behrmann’s experience, along with his alumni and industry contacts, will help make a seamless transition, Owens said. Behrmann will be seeking contributions to help fund the move and equip the new facility, and was actively involved in the building’s planning process, Owens said.
“Your are losing someone who has more than 30 years of industry connections and alumni connections. That’s not going to be easy to replace. Jack has involved Mike in a lot of those contacts and this is what aids this transition,” Owens said.
Behrmann said it’s an honor to oversee a program that will soon embark upon another major transition -- leaving the Carterville campus facilities for the state-of-the-art Transportation Education Center. The eventual 16-mile move will require physically transporting all of the lab components, laboratory supplies, vehicles, training aids, curriculum and materials, but Behrmann is emphatic he wants to maintain the same sense of family, dedication and excellence that enables the department to be among the nation’s best.
“I want to maintain that culture,” he said. “It’s not just me, it’s all of us. It’s our faculty, staff, students, alumni and industry. They help guide this program to its next phases.”
Behrmann still recalls the first day he stepped on the Carterville campus on June 14, 1984, and met with then-chair James E. White.
“His passion for the program and his passion for the industry are what sold it for me. It’s what made me want to come to SIUC,” Behrmann said, noting that Greer shares that same passion for expanding the program’s national reputation.
“I’m so excited just following in their footsteps and thinking of those who made this the nation’s premier automotive program,” Behrmann said. “They were great mentors. I’m just flabbergasted looking at the challenges they went through to sustain the program and all of the struggles we’ve had to go through. The opportunities are there. We have the right mix of faculty and staff, along with outstanding alumni and industry support. The addition of the Transportation Education Center is going to be the next chapter.”
Behrmann earned his associate degree in automotive technology from SIUC in 1986, and his bachelor’s degree in advanced technical studies in 1987. He earned a master’s in education from the University’s Workforce Education and Development program in 1995. Behrmann began as an instructor in the program in 1988, and became an assistant professor in 1995. He has been an associate professor since 2000.
The program has more than 200 students and is at capacity but continues to generate strong interest. Behrmann hopes the future move will allow the program to increase enrollment but that is dependant upon more faculty and industry support, he said. In addition, the off-campus program at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago that allows third-year transfer students into the program continues to grow, he said.
“We have a demand from the industry with more full-time jobs than we have graduates,” Behrmann said. Graduates work in a variety of fields in and out of the automotive industry, including high-level corporate service managers, technical trainers, manufacturer service representatives, corporate and public school auto instructors, technical and customer assistance specialists and field executives.
The chance to open new doors and look for new opportunities and growth areas for the department is continuous but exciting, Behrmann said.
“We are always looking at working with our industry, our alumni and our friends out there and seeing what are some ways we can partner together to develop different ventures,” he said.
Behrmann’s specialization is with the wholesale and retail business sectors in the industry, focusing on financial, marketing and warranty operations. He wants to stay involved in teaching and working with students.
Behrmann and his wife, Chris, and their daughter live in rural Carbondale.