By Denisha Braxton
Fort Worth District
FORT WORTH, Texas — It's not every day students get a chance to go out and learn more about their future careers. Sixty Army ROTC Cadets and educators got a chance to do just that by attending a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics tour March 7 at Lewisville Lake near The Colony, Texas.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District teamed up with ROTC programs from the University of North Texas, University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Christian University, Tarleton State University and Southern Methodist University to showcase mission, career, educational and internship opportunities available to students and engineering faculty in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The event kicked off with a presentation on "Who is the Corps of Engineers?" and why STEM programs are important presented by Dorie Murphy, workforce development specialist, Fort Worth District.
"USACE and 5th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, partnered last year to reach STEM students and encourage their graduation and future consideration of the Corps as an employer and ROTC as a possible avenue for funding their degrees," Murphy said. "The North Texas STEM tour in Lewisville, Texas was important as it targeted freshman and sophomore students from five area universities. With 38 percent of Fort Worth District employees will reach retirement eligibility by 2014. We will need these students as graduates to bring their newly gained knowledge and enthusiasm for engineering solutions, the environment, and sustainable energy to accomplish our missions."
Col. Bridget Rourke, 5th Brigade commander, followed Murphy in welcoming everyone who came out to the event. "We're here to let you know there are great opportunities available when you graduate," said Rourke.
While Rourke captured the attention of eager students and university personnel, Lt. Col. Andrew Liffring, deputy commander, Fort Worth District, followed up with opening remarks and posed the question "What's going on in the world today?" The Cadets from all of the universities called out current national and global events.
"I ask this question because it's important to know what's going on in the world around you because it affects your lives and future career paths," said Liffring.
The tour began with Lewisville Natural Resource Specialists and tour guides Dylan Mayfield, David Macintosh, and John Mathney heading to the Lewisville Lake project office for an overview of the regulatory program given by Jennifer Walker. Walker, who heads permitting for the regulatory branch, discussed subjects that included the Clean Water Act, permits for waterways, projects involving lake construction and mitigation.
"My goal is to increase the students' awareness and understanding of the regulatory program and its importance to the nation's waterways. This STEM event provides an excellent opportunity for students to have a glimpse into the real world, practical challenges and workings of various Corps elements," said Walker.
Leaving the project office students and educators traveled to the Lewisville Lake Dam, where they heard from district hydraulic, civil and mechanical engineers on the maintenance and regulation of Corps lakes and operations of flood risk management in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"As a mechanical engineer major, this was right up my alley," said Christian Beasley, an Army Cadet from UTA. "I thought this would be a great opportunity to come out and learn more about what the Corps does."
The next stop was the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area where Director Ken Steigman awaited to discuss the partnership between LLEA and the Corps. Steigman presented current ecological research and restoration projects at Lewisville Lake.
During lunch a panel of recent graduate interns, an SMU ROTC Cadet and Liffring talked about their success in USACE, ROTC, their career experiences and opportunities.
The tour concluded with a look at the recently commissioned Armed Forces Reserve Center in Lewisville, Texas.
"Construction began in summer 2010 and ended in spring 2011, I am proud to be part of such a great project and give a tour of this facility," said Bill Begole, a resident engineer with the North Texas residence office.
During the reserve center tour, professors and university faculty were invited to engage Corps of Engineers leadership in discussion of future student research projects and partnership opportunities that might be mutually beneficial to their students and the Corps.
"The event was very insightful. I didn't realize how involved the Corps is in projects in the area. I personally had no clue that 70 percent of the jobs are not for active duty military which is a common misconception with my students, "said Kaitlin Britt, UNT engineer department.
"Overall the STEM tour provided the useful tools and guidance about opportunities with the Corps of Engineers to take back to my students," Britt said.