First GCU engineering grads helped build program

April 24, 2019 / by / 0 Comment
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Electrical engineering instructor Jonathan West helps Kadden Johnston (left) and Mayumi Perry learn about power and energy systems. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU Magazine

Not everyone lands their dream job.

Brendan Kaiser did.

“I always dreamed of working at Honeywell (Aerospace). So it’s pretty awesome I got a position there,” said Kaiser, who is on track to receive his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering this month and anticipates beginning work in June as a component engineer.

He is among several GCU students who have secured their first engineering job. Christine Hanson, Academic Project Manager for Engineering, recently was looking over nine job offer letters — the faculty has others in hand.

Mechanical engineering graduate candidate Tayler Holden herself received an offer. She is transitioning from an internship with Western States Fire Protection Co. to a full-time job designing fire suppression systems.

When commencement rolls around April 25-27, Kaiser and Holden will be among the University’s first engineering graduates. Thirty-eight engineering hopefuls are expected to receive their degrees in what will be a milestone event for GCU.

“It’s groundbreaking,” said Maribel Franco, who is slated to receive her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Franco took a chance on GCU’s new engineering program, launched in 2015, when she transferred from another school. She wanted to attend a Christian university that aligned with her beliefs, and GCU was it.

Despite going through the ups and downs to be expected from any new program, Franco said choosing GCU Engineering is a decision she’s thrilled to have made.

“My professors know who I am,” she said of being among GCU’s first cohort of engineers. “They know my name.”

They’re not the only ones.

“You have the same people in your classes, and that makes for a sense of community,” Franco said. “When we would lose an engineer, it was always heartbreaking.”

Denisse Delos Santos, scheduled to receive her electrical engineering degree, was encouraged to stay in the program because of that sense of community.

“Some days I would think, ‘Is this really for me?’ We have a group chat. We’ll say, ‘How are you guys doing?’ If you have that kind of backbone, it’s hard to say, ‘No, I want to go to a different major,’ because we’re all helping each other. We got through this together.”

Like Franco, Delos Santos took a chance on GCU’s nascent engineering program and is ecstatic to be a trailblazer.

“We are the root,” she beamed. “I want to be that foundation for future students.”

The department has grown from offering biomedical, electrical and mechanical engineering degrees to adding engineering, engineering with a robotics emphasis, electrical engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology.

Students also saw the opening of the Engineering Building in 2016 and the addition of the lab-forward engineering wing in 2017. The number of full-time faculty has grown to 15, with more to be added in the fall to accommodate the burgeoning student numbers — 707 students were enrolled in the program in the spring and projections are higher for the fall.

Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Samantha Russell said the buzz in the air is palpable in her senior capstone class as commencement approaches: “The students are all excited to start their professional careers. You can feel the anticipation, each time we meet, of what comes after graduation.”

Dr. Kyle Jones, who teaches biomedical engineering, feels that electricity in the air, too.

“We’ve had to go to the graduations before and maybe didn’t know anyone, but this time, we’ll know some of those students,” he said, which will make commencement just that more meaningful. “We’re very proud.”

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