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The Paper Engineering program, which is chemical engineering applied to the paper industry, was established in 1948 as the Pulp and Paper Technology program within the Department of Chemistry. In 1953, the program became an independent department and was named Paper Science and Engineering. The paper program is unique in the State of Michigan and one of only ten in the nation. The printing (imaging) program was established in 1950 as Printing Marketing and Management, but merged with the Paper Science and Engineering Department in 1989 to form the Department of Paper and Printing Science and Engineering. The Chemical Engineering program has its genesis in a decision by WMU in 1998 to expand engineering programs to include all the "classical" engineering disciplines. In 2001, the faculty voted and the WMU Board of Trustees approved a name change to the Department of Paper Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Imaging (PCI), making it the only department in the US that combines papermaking, printing and chemical engineering. The Department was renamed as the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering in December 2012.


In addition to the chair, the department has thirteen faculty members, six staff members, and approximately 2400 alumni. There are three industry advisory boards that meet six times annually to help the department to stay current: The Paper Technology Foundation, with about $6M in endowments, the Printing Advisory Committee, and the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board. The paper engineering and chemical engineering programs are ABET accredited. Of the ten paper programs in the US, only WMU and three others are accredited. Graduates are highly sought after by
industry, and receive multiple job offers.