Students listen to instructor in cornfield.

UW-River Falls to Offer New Agricultural Engineering Degree

September 11, 2015 -- The UW System Board of Regents has approved a new undergraduate Bachelor of Science program in agricultural engineering at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. 

Set to open in fall 2016, the program is the only one of its kind in a nearly 200-mile radius of UW-River Falls. Industry demand for more agricultural engineers in this rapidly growing region of the state was a key factor in development of the new program, with research indicating an 8-9 percent job growth rate in the field between 2010-2020.  The program expects to enroll 15 students the first semester, with a goal of 73 agricultural engineering students on campus within five years. 

The agricultural engineering program, offered through the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), will align with key economic drivers of the state and this region. The program will enable UW-River Falls to reinforce its already strong partnerships with the region’s businesses, building an appropriate talent pool capable of contributing to the development, production, and support of new and innovative products for agricultural and off-road industries. 

As UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen remarked, the approval of agricultural engineering will provide wonderful new opportunities for students and will have “very positive outcomes related to economic development and deeper domestic and international cooperative opportunities for UW-River Falls” which already has fruitful relationships with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). 

Industry demand and student interest helped drive development of the new program, which will offer a high-quality degree in a field with high demand and solid job and graduate school prospects. The UW-River Falls agricultural engineering degree will be teaching-focused, student-centered, and industry-relevant.

Agricultural engineering is part of the Northwest Wisconsin Engineering Consortium (NWEC), a collaborative effort between UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout to bring a range of engineering programs to western and northern Wisconsin. Students enrolled in any of the NWEC campus-based engineering majors will have flexibility to transfer general engineering credits between the campuses, leverage a greater variety of specific faculty talent and facility offerings, and benefit from the combined potential of increased exposure to a broader array of industry partners.

UW-River Falls is well-known and respected for the array of applied science programs in CAFES and the new degree will run parallel to the existing undergraduate program in agricultural engineering technology, though requiring higher-level mathematics, more theoretical work, and a focus on conceptual design. The new program is designed to meet accreditation requirements outlined by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, making graduates eligible to become licensed professional engineers.

“The agricultural engineering program represents investment in a significant opportunity for UWRF in helping meet an important regional economic development need,” said Dale Gallenberg, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “This is a logical next step for CAFES to add to our highly respected agricultural engineering technology program. Together the two programs will allow us to better partner with industry through education and training of quality students.”

“In practical terms,” said Joe Shakal, associate professor of agricultural engineering, “engineers may design the next generation of tractors or combines to be marketed by Case IH, while engineering technologists could be employed as test engineers during the design and testing phases of the new machines.”

Many UWRF agricultural engineering technology graduates are employed in this region by small and mid-size companies or local operations of national corporations. These same companies need professional engineers, but have difficulty attracting and retaining graduates of engineering programs from outside the region.

Terry Sizemore, vice-president of engineering with Oxbo International in Clear Lake said, “Oxbo is extremely pleased to hear that the UW Board of Regents has approved a new agricultural engineering degree for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. We feel this program will further develop and prepare UWRF students for a rewarding and challenging career. As a global company with key engineering teams located in Western Wisconsin, we look forward to partnering and collaborating with the faculty, staff, and students to ensure the program’s success.”

UW-River Falls is committed to the success of the new program. The campus investment includes funds to renovate and upgrade some of the 18,000 square feet of laboratory space in the Agricultural Engineering Annex and hire additional faculty and staff to complement the expertise of current faculty. Dedicated scholarship funding for qualifying students will also be made available.

Additional information about the new agricultural engineering program can be found at  For more information, email Shakal at


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