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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

UT institute aims to help develop green processing

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A newly approved engineering institute at the University of Toledo aims to bolster the school's standing as a center for green technology and innovation.

The Institute for Sustainable Engineering Materials, approved yesterday by the university's board, will bring together more than 20 faculty members with a variety of expertise in engineering and sustainable manufacturing.

Although no special funding has been approved for the institute, it will begin to function immediately as a separate office within the College of Engineering, the college's dean, Nagi Naganathan, said. Two directors will oversee the institute, working to create specialized teams of researchers that can respond to particular requests for help by businesses and industry.

Mr. Naganathan said the institute is a response to growing corporate interest in environmentally friendly products and creating sustainable ways to manufacture their goods. "More than anything right now, every industry and business is focused on developing sustainable processing," the dean said. "That includes how to minimize waste in the production process, how to deal with it and recycle it."

By bringing experts together from various fields - including experts in metals, polymers, and biomass - the institute also will meet industry demands for products made from more complex materials than in the past, Mr. Naganathan said.

University engineers have already done work for more than 40 outside companies, including DuPont, BP, and Dow Chemical Co.

UT Provost Rosemary Haggett applauded the institute as a means to enhance cooperation among specialists within the university, while strengthening ties with outside enterprise.

"The institute will allow faculty to leverage their knowledge, create new approaches, and to elevate the stature and visibility of this institution," Ms. Haggett said. "This is a real area of strength for the university. It makes a great deal of sense to bring these individuals together under one umbrella."

Also at the board meeting, Lawrence Burns, vice president for external affairs, highlighted the university's success at increasing enrollment over the past three years. Between 2007 and 2009, there was an increase of more than 1,000 new students. Mr. Burns said the increase resulted from improved targeting of scholarship money.

Student diversity has also improved, Mr. Burns reported, with a 17.3 percent annual increase in the number of non-Caucasian students between 2007 and 2009.

The external affairs vice president also outlined a new requirement for incoming students with poor ACT scores, aimed at improving student performance and retention rates. Since the fall, students with the lowest scores have been asked to defer their studies until the spring semester. That allows them to pursue remedial education at local community colleges until they are ready to begin work at a university level, Mr. Burns said.

"It really allows us to fulfill our mission of graduating students," Mr. Burns said. "Enrollment is not about the numbers that come in, it's about the numbers that leave with a degree."

In other news, the university approved more than $10 million in renovations to university buildings, in particular the Center for Performing Arts and three laboratories.

Chuck Lehnert, vice president for facilities and construction, said the upgrades to the Center for Performing Arts will include new seating, furniture, and acoustic improvements. It constitutes the first major upgrade to the building since its construction in 1976, Mr. Lehnert said.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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