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Ken Phillips

Ken Phillips

Former Chair and Associate Professor  of Industrial Design; Alumnus, 1983 

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Longtime professor Ken Phillips is helping transform advanced manufacturing education.


Ken Phillips, former chair and associate professor of industrial design, is helping build the curriculum for MSU Denver’s new degree in advanced manufacturing sciences. The degree will integrate mechanical, electrical and civil engineering technology, aerospace science, computer science, computer information systems, operations management and industrial design. It will be the cornerstone of the University’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, which will be housed in the Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building that is set to open in 2017.

 After three decades of teaching for MSU Denver, Phillips, himself a 1983 industrial and technical studies graduate, was asked to put his July 2014 retirement plans on hold so that he could lend his expertise to the complex project of designing a curriculum that addresses the need for non-engineering professionals, an industry priority. The curriculum includes general requirements, core courses, electives and eight different concentrations.

“We have done a lot of vetting with industry representatives to fill a unique educational niche,” Phillips said,

adding that graduates will be immediately qualified to work in Colorado’s aerospace industry, which is ranked second in the nation.

 Challenging his students to step up their game to ultimately find career success always has been Phillips’ mantra. Former student Brian Ward (B.S. industrial design ’2000) can vouch for that.

 “I was doing fine in the program, but it wasn’t until I met Ken that I became inspired to work hard,” said Ward. “MSU Denver and Ken played a huge role in transforming my life.”

 The hard work has paid off: Ward is now senior engineer for Baxter Healthcare, where he works on a team that develops leading-edge medical devices and runs the prototype/machine shop.

 Phillips’ dedication to MSU Denver might very well have started when his father Ken Phillips, Sr. was named the first permanent president of the institution in 1966.

 A teenager at the time, the younger Phillips jokes that, “Frankly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. But I knew my father was passionate about Metro’s mission.”

 It’s a passion Phillips came to share and one that has grown even stronger with the aerospace and advanced manufacturing initiative.

 “This will benefit our students with great learning opportunities and our industry partners by providing a workforce that’s prepared to help them flourish. I’m a firm believer in real-world educational experiences and this program can become a standard-bearer for that!”