Speaker Day: An event built for engineers

December 2, 2008

For the third year in a row, Greenfield Community College’s Engineering Program is hosting Speaker Day, an increasingly popular informal venue for students to meet professional engineers.

Speaker Day will be held on Dec. 4 from 12:30 to 2:50 p.m. in the Sloan Theater on campus. Greg Brown, director of Recruitment and Transfer Affairs for the University of Massachusetts College Of Engineering, will be on hand.

Engineers from the area will also be available to talk about their work, educational background and show students examples of their work.

Lisa McLoughlin, the GCC professor who started the Speaker Day annual event as a way for her students to meet local engineers, said it is a valuable opportunity for everyone in the community.

“It’s really an informational session,” she said. “Students can come up to talk to engineers individually and see anything the engineers have brought, such as plans or models for the students to look at. It’s very informal and a good opportunity for students to get a picture of the working lives of engineers, see some of the variety

that is available to them within engineering’s sub-disciplines, and start to imagine themselves progressing in the field and in what type of surroundings they’d like to work. The engineers who speak vary from self-employed consultants to government contract engineers, from local to national firms.”

GCC’s two-year engineering program is renowned for its rigorous preparation of students to transfer successfully to four-year universities.

“It is a program that draws many of the elite scientists mathematicians of the region,” said Peter Rosnick, Interim Associate Dean for GCC’s Science, Math and Business Department.

When GCC students transfer to places like UMass, Smith College’s Picker Engineering Program, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Northeastern University College of Engineering, he said, “They do so ready and able to compete with students who began their studies as first-year students at those institutions.”

Former GCC students agree.

“Teachers (at GCC) know that you are planning on going to a four-year college and they will give you the intensity of a four-year college but also with the personal care of a two-year college,” said Ho-Zhen Chen, of Taipei, Taiwan, who graduated last year from GCC and went on to Rensselaer.

And Thayne Henry of Guilford, VT, who transferred to Northeastern University, added, “GCC is a great school with even better teachers.”

McLoughlin said that, rapid changes in the economy notwithstanding, employment in engineering fields is growing.

“Our Intro to Engineering class is designed as ‘problem-based’ learning, so that students with hands-on backgrounds can use their expertise to help them learn the more abstract academic parts of the profession,” she said. “Part of our goal is to help students who have been working or schooling in the trades use that expertise to help them see how they could become engineers. Engineering needs people who know the practical hands-on aspects of the work, and we think GCC is a great first step for those students to bridge the gap between what they know and the additional academics they need to become engineers.”

Ted Johnson, head of GCC’s engineering program, not only upgraded the college’s laboratories with new computers and software, but also developed classes for the renewable energy program so that people in the electrical trades can stay on top of current trends.

At the same time, for those students who intend to seek advanced degrees at four-year universities, Johnson pointed to a “nice arrangement” that GCC has with UMass.

“Engineering tends to get very specialized at the sophomore level, and as students decide on which specific area of engineering they want to go into, we help them do that while at GCC,” he said. “We do this by having an agreement with UMass, whereby they can take their more specialized courses there, as if they were taking those courses here at GCC.”