BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - It stands as a testament to a family with deep roots in the HVACR community and to its strength as one of the premier HVACR learning institutions in the United States. One year after the dedication of the Ferris State University (FSU) Granger Center for Construction and HVACR, the HVACR program is alive, well, and providing career paths for many students.

Granger Construction, the company that built the $18 million, 45,000-square-foot addition to the existing building, boasts several family members who are alumni of the FSU HVACR program.

HVACR department chair Mike Feutz and several current students talked with The News recently about the program. "The new facility has enabled faculty to enhance curriculum through planned and impromptu ‘mini field trips' designed to observe HVACR installations and systems in operation," said Feutz.

"Since the mechanical rooms and systems are all visible, we can now take students out into the corridors and mechanical rooms during lectures to show them exactly what the systems and/or equipment look like, how they operate, and how they interact with other components in the system.

"For our associate degree students, the larger labs and wider diversity of equipment provide exposure to all major manufacturers in our industry. Faculty members are finding they can do more with the equipment and provide labs that are more in-depth than ever before."

"It's an awesome building," said HVACR student Scott Hoogewind. "Every mechanical system of the building is exposed and color coordinated to the rooms to let students look at the systems."

Nick Hofstra, the winner of the 2005 HVACR Engineering Technology Outstanding Students Award, said the new facility has a "buzz" to it. "I had the pleasure of using the old building for several years and it never seemed busy," he said. "But after moving to the new building, it seems like there's always things going on and people to talk to."

HVACR department chair Mike Feutz (third from left) is surrounded by 2005 HVACR award winners (from left) Chad Lobsinger, Nick Hofstra, Coy Pottier, Scott Hoogewind, and Gary Schrader.

Other Students Speak Out

Several award-winning students talked about the FSU program and how it has had an impact on their career choices.

Gary Schrader and Jason VonDoloski were winners of the 2005 HVACR Technology Outstanding Students Award. Both gave the FSU HVACR program high marks.

"The instruction is unique," said Schrader. "Some of our teachers are adjunct, meaning that they are temporary teachers that have worked in the field but do not necessarily possess the degree that Ferris requires to be hired as a full-time faculty member. This allows us to have two very different kinds of teachers; those who have worked in the field and can teach what we can expect, and those who have a strong knowledge of the variety of the systems out there, and their different technologies."

VonDoloski said, "I chose the FSU HVACR program because of its reputation, quality instructors, and beautiful new building. I've enjoyed each and every one of my instructors at Ferris and feel that I've learned a great deal from them."

"Our program does an excellent job giving the students an education that allows them to choose which direction that they would like to head," said Chad Lobsinger, another 2005 HVACR Engineering Technology Outstanding Students Award winner who gives the program high marks. "The students can go into sales, controls, design-build, or even the markets of energy analysis or testing and balancing.

"I feel that the required internship enables the student to get a feel for what they would like to do or even let them know what they may never want to do."

Coy Pottier was the recipient of the Klein Tool Award. He rates the instruction very high. "My favorite part of the curriculum is the personal interaction you can get with the teachers," he said.

"The hands-on training is a real help to solidify what you learn in the classroom."

There have been several female students in the FSU HVACR program. One of the current students, Teresa Bakke, in her third year of the four-year program, had some words of advice for prospective students.

"I would recommend this program to anyone that is interested in working in the HVACR field," she said. "Anyone that wants to get into HVACR design engineering needs to be in this program.

"I know this is not possible for some people who can't be here in person. If they can't make it to Big Rapids to take the program, there is online learning. The online program is taught by the same instructors that teach on campus."

Online Learning

Feutz is very proud of the online program at FSU. "Distance learning students in our engineering technology program learn HVACR engineering via Internet-delivered classes and work with industry-specific software via remote desktop access," he said.

"This remote access, a feature of the computer labs in the new Granger Center, allows students to run all of the software that resides on our computers right from their own home or office computer.

"This is a powerful enhancement for engineering studies via distance learning. For teaching distance learning, the Granger Center is equipped with a marvelous piece of equipment that records lectures with three video cameras that are trained on the teacher, the white board, and the desktop. It even has a system for teaching software applications that captures every image on the computer screen, including mouse movement and menu selection as the teacher explains what the software is doing.

"This information is burned to CDs and mailed to the distance learning students, so they can view the lecture and learn on their own schedule and at their own pace."

Feutz said there are a number of ways his program markets itself to prospective students, including tours of the facility for middle school, high school, and community college students. Faculty members travel to national conventions and seminars and ask for help in recruiting students.

"As an industry, we can't wait for the schools to find our future technicians and engineers," said Feutz. "We all have to be involved. Recruiting is something that every contractor, every manufacturer, every association, every employer must do."

For more on one student's decision to enter FSU's HVACR program, see the sidebar "One Student's Journey To FSU" below. For more information on the FSU HVACR program, visit

Sidebar: One Student's Journey To FSU

Gary Schrader, an FSU HVACR student whose ultimate goal would be to own and operate his own HVACR design/build company, took an unusual route to Big Rapids. Here it is, in his own words:

"I had been attending another college, starting in mechanical engineering, figuring that was how HVACR designers entered the field. The school only offered two electives which had anything to do with HVACR in their mechanical department, and neither offered a lab.

"After I had attended classes for one year, I began to rethink my education. I had been working for a residential HVACR company, and worked there again the summer after I came back from school. On July 29th of that summer, my boss found a trade magazine article which told of a school holding a special forum for high school students interested in the field of HVACR. This school was Ferris State University. The article also stated that Ferris offered a bachelor's degree in HVACR engineering technology.

"Curious as to what this was, I called the HVACR department chair, Mike Feutz, and inquired about the program. I decided that I could justify a 13-hour trip between my home (Cameron, Mo.) and Big Rapids, Mich., to tour the campus and the HVACR program.

"After about a week of debating what I should do, I decided to give Ferris a shot. The only problem was there were five days until school started. I called Mr. Feutz on a Friday and told him that I wanted to go to Ferris, and that I was staring at my computer screen, planning to drop all of my classes at the college I was attending.

"I asked him one final time if he was certain he could get me into the school, because I was going to drive up with a car full of dorm room stuff on Monday, and I wasn't turning around to go home. After he reassured me that it wouldn't be a problem, I dropped classes, packed my car, and drove to a school that I had barely even learned about.

"On Tuesday, I knocked on Mr. Feutz's door at 8:00 a.m. sharp. He took me, my mother, and grandmother around campus where we were able to get me enrolled, get a meal plan, a parking permit, financial aid, and a dorm room. I had literally gotten into a college in less than eight hours. It was a great adventure, and by far the best thing I have done in my life to this point."

Sidebar: FSU HVACR Instructor Rolls Out Updated Textbook

John Tomczyk, professor in HVACR Technology at Ferris State University and contributor toThe News, has co-authored the fifth edition of the textbook and learning guide titledRefrigeration & Air Conditioning Technology.

The book, published by Thomson Delmar Learning, is co-authored by HVACR industry educators Bill Whitman and Bill Johnson. The volume is a complete guide to HVACR instruction. The fifth edition is part of a package that includes text and supplementary materials, an instructor's guide, study guide/lab manual, a resource CD, and video DVD set. A total of 25 instructional units have been updated, and the new edition includes this description of the updates:

"All units have been updated to include advances or changes in technology, procedures, and/or equipment. Where applicable, units have been revised to include the use and management of newer, alternative refrigerants and their appropriate lubricants. Additionally, the proper procedures for management of refrigerants under new laws and regulations have been revised and expanded.

"Over 300 new photographs taken by the authors have been added to this edition along with many new drawings, tables, and diagnostic charts to emphasize the practical application approach of the book.

For more information, visit

Publication date: 05/30/2005