Engineering associate degree program sets path for student success

09.11.2015 | By Andrea Vasquez

Within the last decade, we have witnessed a robotic rover explore Martian terrain, the explosion of instant news and communication via social media, bionic limbs giving people new leases on life, and artificial intelligence that has deviated from Hollywood’s studio lots and nestled into the palm of our hand. Modern advances in today’s technology, energy, industrial, medical, and virtually all industries still have one thing in common - manpower.

Engineering careers are at an all-time high. As a vital component to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field, proper industry-level preparation ensures these constant advances, that our society has come to expect, remain. In response, San Jacinto College saw the need to make its associate of science in engineering science program accessible to students perusing any field of engineering. Last year, after redesigning the degree plan, the College made the first two years of engineering prerequisite classes available to students, allowing for a seamless transfer into a university engineering program.

“We expanded the course options for attaining the engineering associate degree,” said Dr. Karen Duston, San Jacinto College engineering professor. “For example, students planning on becoming industrial engineers now have the option to take engineering economics, while students planning on becoming chemical engineers will take more chemistry courses. Students now have course options that allow them to better meet the needs of biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, and industrial engineering as well as mechanical engineering programs. We even have students already enrolled in four-year programs coming here to take our engineering courses due to the small class sizes and one-on-one instruction we provide.” 

As a former research scientist and engineer in Rice University’s department of civil and environmental engineering, Dr. Duston says her drive to be involved in the reshaping of the program was to help students start their pathway toward an engineering degree. “I love being involved in shaping the engineers of the future. Using the project management skills they learn over the semester, one of the projects students complete in my Introduction to Engineering course is a degree plan that maps out all of the courses they need to complete here and at the university they want to transfer to in order to complete their bachelor of science degree.”

Last Spring, the College signed an articulation agreement with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, allowing students in the associate of science in engineering science program a seamless transfer option into one of the nation’s top-ranked university engineering programs. San Jacinto College also holds engineering articulation agreements with the University of Texas at Tyler and Texas Tech University.

“Typically, engineering students start looking for internships in the second or third year of their program,” said NASA lead engineer and San Jacinto College engineering instructor, Tri Nguyen. “By completing their associate of science in engineering science degree, the student has more credibility than another student who has no degree credential yet. Once they finish the engineering program at San Jacinto College, they won’t be behind trying to catch up upon entering their university program.” 

Former engineering student, Antonio Benedicto Mejia, Jr., says that San Jacinto College provided him with the right setting and resources that validated his decision to pursue engineering. “Community colleges are such an integral part to technical development and character building,” said Benedicto, now a junior in the University of Houston’s petroleum engineering program. “Making the decision on whether an engineering program is the correct academic path is best suited in an intimate environment under the mentorship of professors who dedicate their time to the success and motivation of their students. San Jacinto College’s engineering program exposes students to challenging courses and professors with industry experience.” At this year’s National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Benedicto was one of seven students chosen to represent the University of Houston, and the only student from the Cullen College of Engineering.

As part of the proposed $425 million bond referendum to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, funds will be dedicated to construct a Center of Excellence for Engineering and Technology, which will house the engineering, engineering technology, biomedical equipment repair technology, engineering design graphics, electronics, and computer information technology programs.  According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas continues to rank high for engineering employment. In terms of average annual salaries, the Gulf Coast region ranks among the highest paying state regions for civil engineers ($110,342), chemical engineers ($139,423), and petroleum engineers ($163,492). In February, Forbes.com named the Houston area as the sixth-best city in the United States for engineers, stating that the city has 21 engineers for every 1,000 employees.

For more information on the San Jacinto College associate of science in engineering science program, visit sanjac.edu/engineering.


About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.