The Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence was officially dedicated on October 18, 2012.
The University of Mississippi created the Center for Manufacturing Excellence in 2008 to provide unique educational opportunities for students interested in becoming future leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the modern world of manufacturing. The center’s interdisciplinary academic programs bring the schools of Accountancy, Business Administration, and Engineering to provide students with practical experiences, fundamental knowledge, and creative practices involved in manufacturing.
Conceived by former Gov. Haley Barbour, the center was created with support from the state of Mississippi and Toyota Motor Corp. in conjunction with the construction of the carmaker’s manufacturing plant in Blue Springs. The center’s advisory board includes executives from the nearby plant, other manufacturing companies, and industry experts to ensure close ties to industry.
The center provides several innovative degree options to students interested in pursuing management-track positions within engineering and manufacturing-related companies. For example, a minor in manufacturing engineering can be added to a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Bachelor of Accountancy degree to provide students with a practical understanding of the technical world of engineering.
Likewise, engineering students may enhance their marketability in the manufacturing world by coupling an emphasis in manufacturing to their Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science in mechanical or chemical engineering degrees. To obtain the more highly marketable interdisciplinary degrees, students simply take a variety of accounting, communication, human resources, leadership, management, and marketing courses.
Just as unique as the center’s academic programs is the facility in which it is housed. The three-story, 47,000-square-foot building is home to several state-of-the-art classrooms, a 12,000-square-foot factory, assembly and finishing areas, and a robotics laboratory. CME not only provides students with access to manufacturing machinery but also enables them to learn all the steps that go into bringing a product to fruition and even create their own. With more than 400 solar panels on the roof, the facility also is home to one of the state’s largest roof-mounted solar power complexes.
The Center for Manufacturing Excellence enrolled its first students in fall 2010. Those 27 freshmen were joined by 36 others last fall and 51 more this fall. Today, the unique program boasts more than 100 students. Enrollment is expected to reach 200 within the next two years.
Although the center’s initial focus is undergraduate education, its major priorities also include graduate education and research. Graduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels will be developed. With the support from a wide variety of industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to furniture and shipbuilding, as well as the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Manufacturing, the center will work to address the special needs of manufacturing industries and companies in Mississippi and beyond.