At 15, Chris Blue is mapping his future as an engineer.
To reach his goal, he plans to take advantage of a new 3-plus-2 dual degree engineering program through UNC Pembroke and N.C. State University.
The 3-plus-2 program was announced during a ceremony on the N.C. State campus earlier this month. Blue attended along with 40 university leaders, trustees, administrators and faculty from both schools.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” said Blue, a rising sophomore at Purnell Swett High. “I would love to be able to go to UNC Pembroke and N.C. State.”
UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings signed the agreement alongside N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson.
The 3-plus-2 degree gives students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from UNCP in three years followed by a bachelor’s degree in electrical or mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering at N.C. State. The program is designed for students to earn two degrees in five years.
“This is a great step forward for our community and the employers here in the surrounding counties who need and have a difficult time finding qualified engineers,” said Beth McPhaul, Senior Human Resource Manager at Elkay Manufacturing in Lumberton.
“Several months ago, at a Robeson Technical Works meeting held at Campbell Soup, we asked Dr. Cummings to look into some type of engineering programs that could provide us qualified engineering candidates,” McPhaul said. “We appreciate his efforts to make this a reality and are excited about where this program is going.”
Robeson Technical Works is a partnership comprised of area industrial employers, business leaders, Southeastern Human Resources Association members, educators and several other groups and individuals.
To qualify for the program, students must have completed a minimum mathematical level of pre-calculus before entering UNCP. The program is intensive and may require summer courses. Summer camps will be available at UNCP to ensure students are prepared for the program.
The camp will coincide with UNCP’s COMPASS Scholarship program which involves students in computation physics and advanced laboratory prep classes to get students engaged in hands-on topics in physics.
“This really is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Cummings said. “Institutions working together can accomplish a whole lot more than we can accomplish alone.”
Cummings said the program will support the economy in a field which struggles to fill engineering positions.
“We at UNC Pembroke are stepping up to the plate to meet those challenges,” Cummings said. “This partnership today will help us fill that void to support the economy of our region and provide an excellent opportunity for UNC Pembroke students to prepare for rewarding careers.”
Blue, who wants to study mechanical engineering, was accompanied by a half dozen “future engineers” from Purnell Swett. He is the son of Kellie Blue, chairwoman of UNCP Board of Trustees.
UNCP will begin accepting students into the program in August. Dr. Jose´ D’Arudda, a long-time physics professor, will serve as program coordinator.
Cummings praised D’Arudda and chemistry professor Dr. Sivanadane “Siva” Mandjiny, chair of the Chemistry and Physics Department, for their work in developing the curriculum.
“I am extremely happy,” Mandjiny said after the signing. “This is a great opportunity for our students and for our university to be able to send them to a professional school. I’m extremely honored.”
Mandjiny said he plans to recruit members of the Esther G. Maynor Honors College at UNCP and target local high school students who have taken AP Calculus.
“This is a proud day for higher education in the state of North Carolina,” said Chancellor Woodson said. “This program is providing access and opportunities for young people all across the state.”
Woodson continued: “This new partnership will ensure that young people that are entering UNCP and have a vision of going to one of the strongest engineering colleges in the nation, will have an opportunity to come to N.C. State.”
Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering at N.C. State, said the 3-plus-2 program represents an example of the future of higher education in North Carolina.
Collaboration is one of the core values adopted by UNCP shortly after Cummings was hired as chancellor in 2015.
“We want to continue to create pathways to success and one of those ways is through collaboration,” Cummings said. “Today marks the latest partnership among many that we have with institutions.”
“At UNCP, our mission is simply ‘changing lives through education,’” he said. “By coming together with our students in mind, by creating pathways to successful careers, by providing access to opportunities to well-deserving students, N.C. State and UNC Pembroke are changing lives through education.”
Owen Thomas, president of the UNCP Alumni Association Board of Directors, also made the trip to Raleigh along with state Reps. Duane Hall and Gayle Adcock. Thomas, a Cary native, was excited to see alumni from UNCP and N.C. State coming together for a shared purpose.
“This is awesome,” Thomas said. “This is going to be a huge partnership for us moving forward.”
UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system. For more information, contact Jodi Phelps, executive director of University Communications and Marketing, via email (email@example.com) or by phone (910.521.6863). Connect with UNC Pembroke on social media or online at uncp.edu to learn how the university is changing lives through education.