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UNC Pembroke’s 3+2 engineering program picking up steam

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McLean Pait III (left) and Caleb Locklear, members of the 3+2 dual engineering degree program, pictured at the End-of-Summer RISE Symposium
McLean Pait III (left) and Caleb Locklear, members of the 3+2 dual engineering degree program, pictured at the End-of-Summer RISE Symposium

Since establishing a dual degree engineering program with N.C. State University, six years ago, UNC Pembroke’s 3+2 program has taken off.

The rigorous program allows students to spend three years at UNCP, two years at NCSU and graduate with degrees in applied physics and mechanical, electrical, or civil and environmental engineering.

Dana Lamberton, the program’s first graduate in 2021, is a manufacturing engineer for PCB Piezotronics, assisting in the design, production, and testing of custom high-precision sensors.

Terry Chavez enrolled at NCSU this fall and is working toward a degree in electrical engineering to go along with her physics degree from UNCP. More than a dozen others, including Caleb Locklear and McLean Pait III, are standouts in the 3+2 track. 

“It is a great program!” Pait said. “I would encourage students to look into it. There’s a very good relationship between students and professors, and the professors are more than willing to help students succeed.”

The institutional partnership provides a seamless pathway to one of the state’s top-ranked engineering programs. Likewise, as one of several pathway programs UNCP has with other universities in the UNC System, and across the country, the program ensures students receive a high-quality, affordable education. An NC Promise campus, UNCP is one of the most affordable universities in the nation, with tuition at $500 per semester for in-state students and $2,500 per semester for out-of-state students.

Since the program’s establishment, the number of applied physics majors has increased, according to Dr. Bill Brandon, 3+2 program coordinator.

“The 3+2 program gives our applied physics majors the opportunity to complete a rigorous physics curriculum that was not always available before we had the program in place,” Brandon said.

The 3+2 program also increases access, diversity, and enrollment into STEM disciplines which, in turn, helps meet the workforce needs in high-demand jobs in electrical and chemical engineering. Locklear began showing an interest in STEM as a student at Purnell Swett High School.

“Science, math, art, and design engineering have always been my go-to,” said Locklear, a junior. “With physics and math, you have these problems in the book, but you are not sure how they are related to real-world problems. However, on the 3+2 track, you can see why it is used to solve real-world problems. That’s what sparked my interest in engineering.”

Pait, a senior, had his eye on the engineering program at N.C. State before enrolling at UNCP.

“Pembroke was more affordable. Plus, by going through the 3+2 program, I would be essentially guaranteed entrance into N.C. State,” he said.

Locklear, Chavez and Pait all agree the program––which requires 18 credits per semester–– is intense and challenging. On top of a full course load, Locklear and Pait kept busy over the summer building an external-cavity diode laser (ECDL) prototype in the lab of their physics professor, Dr. Brandon.

While at UNCP, Chavez and another student, Shaun Schrubbe, participated in a research project involving magneto-optics. Chavez presented the results of that work in March during the North Carolina Academy of Science annual meeting at Campbell University and was awarded first prize.

Transitioning from small classes to an auditorium full of students at N.C. State has been quite an adjustment for Chavez, a Raleigh native.

“Luckily, with the summer course load that I took, I was able to get to know my professor and some of my classmates that I will be seeing from now on,” she said. “It is also so interesting to cover some of the material I was exposed to at UNCP in different ways. I am excited to see what this semester and the remainder of this program have in store for me.”