Virginia community college students who aspire to careers in engineering have several pathways to completing their bachelor’s degrees at the state’s flagship public school, the University of Virginia. The most typical way is to take advantage of the Guaranteed Admission Agreement with U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. This agreement is applicable to transfer students who complete their two-year degree with a minimum 3.4 grade point average and minimum required grades in prerequisite courses. Alternatively, transfer students may opt to participate in the Engineers PRODUCED in Virginia program (also known as PRODUCED).
PRODUCED targets transfer-eligible community college students who have completed all or most of an Associate of Science degree, have achieved a minimum 3.25 grade point average, and have performed well in a strong technical core of math and science courses. To complete their Bachelor of Science degree from U.Va., participants are not required to relocate to the Charlottesville campus; instead, they attend class via real-time webcasts from U.Va. classrooms. Additionally, these students work part-time each semester as paid interns for local engineering firms, and full-time during summer.
U.Va. Associate Professor James Groves, who founded PRODUCED in 2009, said the program was inspired by requests from Virginia’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) community to help fortify the talent pipeline. PRODUCED has resulted in both a win for regional engineering employers, who get not only trainable students, but also loyal employees who often return after graduation; and a win for students, who get an affordable way to complete their degree, as well as training and experience to enhance their resume.
The PRODUCED program is ideally suited to students who want to integrate their education into their existing community, such as for family or financial reasons. But this does not mean they are not a part of the U.Va. community, as well.
“There are no isolated learners in the program,” says Dr. Groves, who, via webcasts, teaches the PRODUCED students simultaneously with his physically present students. Dr. Groves says his distance learners can expect to be called on during class sessions, to make real-time presentations, to collaborate on projects with their classmates using Google Docs, and to engage in discussions with faculty and other students in the class just as any other student would. “Even if they are not physically in the classroom,” says Dr. Groves, “they are getting a real-time experience that represents a special opportunity to a U.Va. education.”
If you’re capable and you want to join us, you’ll get that chance.
Another special opportunity for program participants is accessibility. Since space is not limited by the availability of seats on campus, any student who meets the criteria can pursue their engineering degree through the University of Virginia. “If you’re capable and you want to join us,” says Dr. Groves, “you’ll get that chance.”
Furthermore, all students who participate in Engineers PRODUCED in Virginia will graduate with relevant work experience, a more extensive resume, and a proven ability to communicate and work in teams long distance. “This separated me from other candidates,” said one successful graduate of the program, “and put me at the front of the hiring line.”
Currently, the PRODUCED program is limited to the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science (an interdisciplinary degree that combines mechanical and electrical engineering). Plans are already underway, however, to expand program offerings. The Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree will be available to PRODUCED participants by the fall of 2017, according to Dr. Groves, “if all goes well.” Additional degree choices may follow, further developing career options for community college students who would like to complete their engineering degree with the University of Virginia.