A recent $500,000 gift helps Ohio State ATI provide a competitive advantage to students, faculty, and staff through experiential learning with the most up-to-date engineering technology.
The gift, made by an anonymous donor, creates three new current-use funds for the Department of Engineering Technology at ATI, the associate-degree-granting academic unit within The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
In addition, the donation significantly boosts an existing fund that aids students with financial crises. This resource is even more crucial during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The bulk of this gift is supportive of our engineering technologies. That is a tremendous career field,” ATI Director Kris Boone said. “We have been wanting to attract more students to this area because it’s a great career path. This gift will help us to be able to do that. In addition, it will help us ramp up workforce development training.”
The timing of the gift speaks volumes about the donor, Boone said.
“It is absolutely remarkable that during this pandemic, we had a donor who had the foresight to make this gift during this very difficult time,” she said. “When I talked to the donor about that, to say how pleased I was, especially during this time, the response was, ‘This is when they need it, so why not now?’ Just the humility and humbleness, that is special.”
“I think it speaks also to the sustained commitment of our faculty and staff to student success because the donor had the confidence in our faculty and staff to be able to support these students,” she said.
The ATI Engineering Technology Laboratory Support Fund allows for the purchase of new equipment and tools for a modernized lab along with renovation, cleaning, and maintenance within the engineering technology department. Meanwhile, the ATI Engineering Technology Faculty Support Fund supports faculty specific to engineering technology, particularly hydraulics and motion control.
The two new funds help maintain a modern curriculum that offers experiential learning with maximized, cutting-edge technology and give students a competitive edge in the job market, said Robby Frutchey, senior lecturer of agricultural and engineering technologies and program coordinator of power equipment and hydraulics and motion control.
“We are all about experiential learning at ATI. Experiential learning becomes expensive when you start talking about the precision world in agriculture,” he said. “Our partners in the hydraulic power world see the need for good instructors and good employees.”
Precision agriculture is evolving and becoming more complex, which underscores the industry’s need for people who understand and can repair electronic and autonomous equipment, Frutchey said.
“The equipment changes so rapidly and how it operates changes. This allows us to stay modern with what’s being practiced in industry. Part of that goes back to attracting students and keeping students up-to-date on the modern technology,” Frutchey said. “The best part is too, if we can have a diverse set of equipment used in the industry, the recruiters can come in and say, ‘Wow, they have that.’”
The donation also established the ATI Faculty Professional Development and Training Fund, which supports certificate training and professional development expenses for engineering technology faculty. This may include training from the National Coalition of Certification Centers, which will allow ATI to become a training-certified campus and offer non-academic credit to nontraditional learners for certification, Boone said.
“Our students will be able to graduate not only with their academic diploma, but also a certified credential,” Boone said. “I am excited about this great partnership and what this can do for our students.”
The gift also contributes to an existing ATI Student Emergency Aid Fund (#316927), which provides help for large, unforeseen expenses on a case-by-case basis.
With over 60% of its annual enrollment consisting of first-generation college students, and many from varied economic backgrounds, ATI has a vulnerable population, Boone said.
“We want to be able to help with those expenses that can throw off their entire academic career,” she said. “The donor saw that need and felt like some money should go there.”
Located in Wooster, Ohio, ATI is ranked second nationwide among two-year trade schools in 2020 by Niche.com, a Pittsburgh-based company that researches colleges, schools, companies, and neighborhoods.