CEAS History

The Early UWM Years

The current UWM college of Engineering and Applied Science has its roots in over 100 years of development. It grew out of the early University of Wisconsin Extension programs that began with Teachers' Institutes and local history lectures as early as 1888. In 1891 the University created three new programs: lecture courses in general subjects, courses on industrial subjects for working people and correspondence courses. Engineering more than any other division of the Extension program fit the needs of an industrial city, and much of the statewide Extension programming occurred in the Milwaukee area. In 1892 the University of Wisconsin began offering day and evening courses in Milwaukee using Madison faculty to teach classes organized and developed by various industries interested in specific training for their employees. Over the years the University of Wisconsin developed one of the most comprehensive and effective Extension educational programs in the nation. Theodore Roosevelt once commented that "All through the Union we need to learn the Wisconsin lesson".

The Beginning of the Century

Between 1907 and 1912 UW-Extension correspondence study and classroom work in engineering and business were begun in Milwaukee. Local industries helped finance their employee's fees for Extension courses in shop mathematics, blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and so forth. By 1921 the Engineering Bulletin listed 15 faculty (mostly part-time instructors from industry), and in 1923 a full two-year curriculum was offered in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Metallurgical, and Mining Engineering.

The UWM Expansion

To serve the increasing number of Milwaukee students, the State Legislature appropriated $150,000 in 1923 for the construction of a University Extension building on the present Civic Center Campus in downtown Milwaukee. In the 1930's, the University of Wisconsin (Madison) initiated a two-year undergraduate engineering program and a Master of Science program in various engineering disciplines to be offered on the Civic Center campus. The enrollment increased so rapidly in 1946-47 from returning World War II veterans that classes were expanded into rented space in the Wisconsin Tower at 6th and Wisconsin Avenue and the Metropolitan Building at 3rd and State. The undergraduate program served as a direct transfer program to the College of Engineering in Madison and was taught by faculty hired by that college to teach on the "Milwaukee campus." Graduate courses were primarily taught by Madison faculty who commuted on a weekly basis. This continued until the merger of the Milwaukee State Teachers College and the Milwaukee Extension Division to form the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1956.

The Establishment of CEAS

While both the undergraduate and graduate programs remained in effect, the Director of Engineering now reported to the UWM Chancellor and the faculty became members of the new UWM faculty. A committee of 30 people chosen from leaders in the local community and industry, were charged with the responsibility of forming UWM. They recommended the formation of a separate University of Wisconsin College of Engineering in Milwaukee. The UW Regents finally approved the establishment of the "College of Applied Science and Engineering" at UWM in 1964, and the first freshmen class was admitted to the college in September 1965. Since then approximately 5,000 engineering degrees have been granted.

The CEAS Expansion

In 1971 the college's name was changed to the current "College of Engineering and Applied Science" and a separate thirteen-story Engineering and Mathematical Sciences Building (EMS) was constructed. Located on the western edge of the UWM campus, the EMS building houses facilities for both research and instruction, with modern equipment occupying over 75,000 square feet of laboratory space.

The CEAS Mission

The College's mission has three broad charges - to develop vigorous programs of teaching, to establish significant research programs, and to work closely with industry and the community. In order to carry out this mission, the College has developed interdisciplinary programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Thus, a student receives not only an excellent education in the major field, but also a broad background in engineering fundamentals. The merger of the University of Wisconsin System (Madison, Milwaukee, Park-side, Green Bay and the Center campuses) with the State University System (La Crosse, Oshkosh, River Falls etc.) in 1972 did not alter the status or goals of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science.


Originally the College was divided into the departments of Electrical, Energetics, Industrial, Mechanics, Mechanical Design and Materials. All the engineering programs were built around a two year "core" consisting of mathematics, basic sciences, and engineering science courses. At the present time, the College is organized into the five traditional departments of Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Materials, and Mechanical Engineering. During the 1970s and 1980s the college followed other institutions in managing enrollments in upper level classes by installing "grade point barriers" for admission to major in the junior year. Today students are admitted directly into the major of their choice and are assigned a faculty advisor in their freshman year.

Present Day

The CEAS engineering program still has a unique interdepartmental structure designed to provide students with the needed skills and talents to meet the demands of a changing technology. The faculty of approximately 60 members has distinguished itself both in the academic and the industrial community. Many serve on state and national panels and are actively engaged in their professional societies. Through industrially sponsored research, industry/student team projects and interaction between the industrial community, faculty, and CEAS alumni; the College maintains a serious commitment to working closely with industry and the community to contribute to the economic vitality of the southeastern region and the state.