Even though Paul Plotkowski was named MMA’s MFG Talent Champion for 2017, you would think he was accepting the Award on behalf of a team of more than 250 manufacturers throughout West Michigan.
“I don’t think we could have done it without our partners in industry,” said Plotkowski, founding and present dean of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Grand Rapids. “Every undergraduate student in our program participates in a year-long paid co-op or internship, and that wouldn’t be possible without the support of our area companies.”
The university has graduated more than 3,000 students in engineering and computer science since the college was founded in 1991, and Plotkowski credits the emphasis on co-ops and internships as a main reason for its success.
“Our students hit the ground running so much more effectively when they graduate with practical experience from their internships and co-ops,” said Plotkowski, who holds a doctorate in Systems Engineering from Oakland University. “And it’s always a win-win situation for both student and company sponsor. The students work on real-life problems to come up with industrial-grade working solutions.
“So many are hired by their sponsors after they graduate that we like to say it’s often a case of ‘interview once and hire twice.’’’
Under the direction of Plotkowski, GVSU also has continued to evolve with the advances in manufacturing technology during the past 26 years, particularly in the field of computer-based applications for product design and manufacturing engineering.
After a stint as a professor of mechanical engineering and director of manufacturing systems engineering at GMI Institute in Flint (now Kettering University), Plotkowski joined GVSU and introduced a manufacturing engineering program in his role as director of the School of Engineering. He then served as the founding dean of the College of Engineering and Computing when it was formed in 2004.
During the past two decades, the college has continued to add studies in product design, biomedical engineering design of components and mechatronics.
Charles Standridge, Ph.D., associate dean of the Padnos College, said Plotkowski has “worked tirelessly to gain financial support for student tuition scholarships from industrial partners.”
Standridge, who nominated Plotkowski for the MFG Talent Champion, said the School of Engineering awards more than $100,000 annually in scholarships due primarily to Plotkowski’s efforts.
Under Plotkowski’s leadership, the college also has continued to grow in terms of facilities and endowments. During the past two decades, GVSU has received more than $37 million in contributions from federal and state governments, corporations and private donors to support facilities, scholarships, endowed faculty positions, curriculum development and research and development. Some examples include the Keller Engineering Lab Building dedicated in 2000, the Kennedy Hall of Engineering dedicated in 2007, and a new Design & Innovation Center is a third building slated to open in 2017.
Outside of the classroom, Plotkowski contributes time to educational and professional organizations.
“He mentors inner city high school students at Innovation Central in Grand Rapids,” Standridge said. “In service to the greater academic community, Paul donates his time as an ABET Program Evaluator for undergraduate Manufacturing, Mechanical and Interdisciplinary Engineering programs. He annually dedicates over 150 hours to review and consult with such programs.”