In fall 2004, North Carolina State University (NC State) and Craven Community College (CCC) cooperatively launched a bachelor’s of science (BSE) degree program in Mechanical Engineering Systems (MES). The MES program allows students to obtain a four-year engineering degree from NC State without leaving CCC’s Havelock campus. Students receive courses from Raleigh via live video technology and from Havelock-based NC State faculty.
On September 9, representatives from organizations involved with the program gathered to celebrate the program’s accreditation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). At the event were representatives from CCC, NC State College of Engineering, Naval Air Systems (NAVAIR) Fleet Readiness Center East Research and Engineering Group (FRC-East), and Craven County Schools.
“From the outset, the goal was to build a program that met regional and local needs and created opportunities for students, but, also, the goal was to create a quality program that met requirements for accreditation by ABET,” said Dr. Jerome Lavelle, NC State’s associate dean of academic affairs.
In 2003, Dennis West and Chris Holder of NAVAIR had a vision to create an engineering program in eastern North Carolina to educate local students in order to meet FRC-East’s growing demand for engineers. In 2004, Dr. Bill Fortney became the program director and installed the NC State lab equipment needed to begin teaching sophomore engineering courses. Dr. Scott Ralls, CCC president at the time, was a strong proponent of the partnership between the university, community college and industry.
In 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly approved the BSE degree. The first two students completed CCC courses and transferred into the BSE program in fall 2008. In spring 2012, the program graduated its first four students.
“The milestone of 10 years and accreditation was made possible because all partners where fully committed every step of the way,” said Fortney. In addition to educating students, the program and partners are involved in middle school and high school outreach, including summer engineering camps.
The program has graduated five students in total, and another 20 potential graduates are currently enrolled in the program. Graduates of the engineering program, Joshua Corbett, Jon Den, Laine Johnson, and Jordan Lewis, were also present at the September 9th celebration.
After 20 years as a high school math teacher, Johnson returned to school to obtain her engineering degree. While attending school, she balanced her studies, work and family. “Although I got a lot less sleep and time with my family over those four years, it was worth the sacrifices,” said Johnson. She is a mechanical/aerospace engineer for T64 fuel controls and engines at FRC-East.
“When I give tours at the Havelock campus, I love to see NC State’s red and white colors as I walk down the hall,” said Dr. Catherine Chew, CCC president. Chew said that the resources and equipment were very important, but it came down to the commitment of all people involved that made the program a success.
Deborah Kania is the director of marketing, communications and development liaison at Craven Community College.
Article originally appeared in the New Bern Sun Journal.