Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Joan Welty and Promod Vohra
Joan Welty, director of marketing for AutomationDirect (left) and Promod Vohra, dean of NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, visit the newly sponsored AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory at NIU.

To obtain a print-quality JPEG of this photo, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (815) 753-1681 or e-mail

News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

September 19, 2008

AutomationDirect sponsors lab at NIU

DeKalb, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University College of Engineering and Engineering Technology today officially dedicated the AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory, in historic Still Hall on the university’s main campus in DeKalb.

The sponsor of the lab, Cumming, Ga.-based AutomationDirect, is a leading seller of industrial equipment used in facility automation. Its extensive product line includes programmable logic controllers, touch panel control screens, motors, drives, sensors and hundreds of other products.

The company’s gift of $100,000, spread over four years, also makes possible a named term professorship.

“AutomationDirect has been a generous supporter of the college for many years, and we are delighted to formalize that relationship through the naming of this laboratory and the creation of the AutomationDirect Professorship,” said Promod Vohra, dean of the college. “We are proud to be partners with a company of its stature.”

The laboratory is equipped with an extensive selection of AutomationDirect equipment that students are likely to encounter in the workplace after graduation.

“Thanks to the generosity of AutomationDirect, our students have access to the latest technology, and their skills are on the cutting edge when they graduate,” said Cliff Mirman, chair of the NIU Department of Technology. “We hear from employers all of the time that our graduates have an advantage when applying for jobs based upon their familiarity with this equipment.”

NIU is one of about 15 schools with which AutomationDirect has a working relationship, but this is the first time it has named a lab and created a professorship.

“The manufacturing and automation industries need to encourage students to pursue technical careers by supporting these programs, particularly at the university level,” said Joan Welty, director of marketing at AutomationDirect.

“AutomationDirect wished to expand their educational support by establishing a strong presence in various regions of the country, and since we had already been working with NIU, it made sense to choose it as our focus for the Midwest region,” Welty added. “We feel NIU’s Technology program offers hands-on, practical experience that is a key to driving productivity and thus competitiveness in the new global marketplace.”

Andrew Otieno will fill the role of AutomationDirect Professor.

In that role, he will supervise and maintain the lab and work with AutomationDirect to ensure that students continue to have access to the most up-to-date equipment. He also will facilitate the creation of programs to provide professional development training in the lab for engineers and technologists from local industries.

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Media Mentions:

Automation Notebook
Control Engineering
Control Global