New Program Director Takes Helm of Antelope Valley Engineering Program

Access to jobs and internships at top aerospace organizations is one of the CSULB Antelope Valley Engineering Program’s biggest draws for students. So when he took over as the program’s director, one of the first things Dr. Aubrey Priest did was check how those jobs and internships were faring during the pandemic.

“I’m pleased to note that our industry partners have informed us that they still have a tremendous need to hire engineers right now during this pandemic,” said Priest, who joined AVEP in mid-July. “The desire to hire still exists, but students may be placed in remote positions or on-site where they have to wear personal protective equipment.”

In Priest’s view, proximity to the aerospace industry is one of the chief benefits of the program, which offers opportunities for transfer students to earn bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering in 2 ½ years. “Many of the largest global aerospace companies are right here—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others,” he said.

On its advisory board are representatives from Edwards Air Force Base, NASA Armstrong Research Center, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, as well as the City of Lancaster, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, and the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.

The program was established as a win-win for aerospace organizations seeking engineering graduates and transfer students trying to finish their engineering degrees in the Antelope Valley, a region without a four-year university.

Proximity to hiring companies isn’t AVEP’s only advantage. “Internally, you have a cohort-style program that requires a 2 ½-year commitment. The program is taught by amazing faculty who are dedicated, knowledgeable and really have a passion for providing an outstanding engineering education to the students,” Priest said.

“It’s an interconnected program community where everyone works together to support student’s efforts to successfully persist through the program and earn an impactful career.”

Currently, three quarters of the cohorts are transfer students from Antelope Valley College.

The decade-old program can accommodate 25 students in each of its two majors. “That allows students to develop a more intimate understanding of the material,” Priest said. “Students get the support they need to be successful.

As is the case throughout the California State University system, classes this fall will take place virtually, except for a small number of hybrid classes.

“We are all living in unprecedented times and educational institutions had to make immediate changes to how courses were to be delivered in the midst of the pandemic. I’m pleased at what the AV faculty and staff were able to accomplish last spring transitioning into an online format. The faculty have all of the resources they need and the natural byproduct of that is students receive a quality education,” He said.

The importance of students receiving a quality education is top of mind. But Priest is also concerned about how students are faring in the pandemic.

“It’s imperative that we ensure that our current students are supported and their basic needs are met in light of COVID-19,” said Priest, whose staff are surveying students to make sure they have access to housing, food, computer equipment and Wi-Fi. “We want to know more about the wellness of our students. If you’re having challenges finding a place to lay your head, focusing on an engineering program would be extremely difficult. We have a number of resources available on our main campus to support our students in need.”

Although the majority of AVEP students are drawn from Antelope Valley College, Priest said there’s tremendous opportunity to expand recruitment to Kern County and colleges in the Los Angeles region. He also sees potential to expand the program to other engineering sectors, such as agriculture, advanced manufacturing, distribution, and fabrication, as well as partnering with other higher ed institutions, foundations, and government entities for the purpose of advancing research opportunities.

“AVEP’s efforts to broaden its regional footprint by fostering community alliances with the focus being research will go a long way to expand resources for faculty and students as well as offer us a seat at the table as we seek to support industry  and government efforts to answer many of the challenging questions they may have, particularly those where innovation is needed to solve them.“ he added.

Priest obtained his Ed.D. Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University in 2016. He earned a master’s degree in Forensic Sciences from National University in 2003 and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fresno State University in 1999. Prior to joining CSULB, he was an administrator for the Venture Lab with University of California, Merced, which included lead oversight of the program’s manufacturing facility and biotech laboratory.

With more than 16 years’ experience in college admissions, recruitment, and outreach, as well as strategic retention and persistence planning and implementation, Priest was formerly lead marketing professional for a telecommunications company and a former executive with his own company.

He said he was drawn to AVEP because of the opportunity “to work for a university that offers an outstanding education, and more specifically, where the student-focused undergraduate degree program offers the essential tools needed for students to excel in their careers.”


Mechanical Engineering Student Wins University Internship Essay Contest

Career Development Center counselor Jina Lee Flores and Noah Suraza
Career Development Center counselor Jina Lee Flores and Noah Suzara

Mechanical engineering major Noah Suzara describes himself as a self-starter. When he landed an interview for a cost engineering internship at Jacobs Engineering, he didn’t know the first thing about cost engineering.

“I had no idea what cost engineering was before my interview. I had to read up on it,” said Suzara, who was immediately hired and put to work on a $40-million Shell refinery project in Martinez, California. After that project, he rotated to others, making contacts and becoming a self-described “Swiss Army knife” during his two years as an intern with the company. Continue reading “Mechanical Engineering Student Wins University Internship Essay Contest”

Boeing Holds Interview Sessions for Its BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program

There was strong interest Wednesday in a Boeing program that gives engineering students a chance to gain up to a year of job experience. The BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program is open to juniors and seniors who are U.S. citizens, have a GPA of 3.0 or above, and are studying aerospace, civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering.

Dozens of students brought their resumes and dressed for success for a chance to be interviewed for one of 15 positions in Boeing’s Long Beach and Seal Beach facilities. The positions are full-time during summer and 20 hours per week during the school year. Seven hires will work at the Long Beach facility and the remainder in Seal Beach. Continue reading “Boeing Holds Interview Sessions for Its BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program”

Beavers Endowed Chair Delivers Talk on Heavy Civil Construction Industry

William Wolfe

Beavers Endowed Chair in Heavy Civil Construction William Wolfe on Monday extolled the advantages of a career in heavy civil to a class of civil engineering and construction management students.

”Heavy civil is the infrastructure part. You’re got vertical and you’ve got horizontal. We’re talking about the horizontal,” he explained.

Heavy civil projects include bridges, dams, roads, tunnels and transportation and water systems. One advantage of that career path, he said, is that the projects are tangible and easy to explain. “When you talk about these big projects, you don’t need to explain yourself,” he said. Continue reading “Beavers Endowed Chair Delivers Talk on Heavy Civil Construction Industry”

Griffith Co. Offers Opportunities for Civil Engineering and Construction Grads

griffith employeesBuilding a good reputation is important, says Griffith Co. Chairman and CEO Tom Foss. And Foss should know. He started at Griffith as a laborer four decades ago, and rose through the ranks, transitioning to foreman, estimator, chief coordinator, then Orange County vice president and district manager.

Established in 1902, Griffith is a midsized heavy civil construction company that employs about 1,000. “We try to do things that give us a family feel,” said Foss, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council and a fundraiser for the Beaver’s Endowed Chair in Heavy Civil Engineering. “We want to make employees feel like part of the team.” Continue reading “Griffith Co. Offers Opportunities for Civil Engineering and Construction Grads”

Career Development Center Offers Last-minute Prep for Fall Engineering Job Fair

Attending a job fair requires strategy and preparation. That’s why Jina Flores was on hand Tuesday to help steer engineering students through the process one day ahead of the Fall Engineering & Technology Career Fair in the University Student Union.

“There are huge crowds and lots of employers,” said Flores, lead career counselor at the CSULB Career Development Center. “Practice your pitch. There’s only a very small percentage of students who can wing it.” Continue reading “Career Development Center Offers Last-minute Prep for Fall Engineering Job Fair”

Northrop Grumman Holds Resume Workshop for Post-Military Students

Five veterans attend a resume workshopIf you’ve served in the military, you probably have a long list of accomplishments to include on your resume. But those acronym-rich descriptions can require some translating to make sense to civilian hiring managers.

On Monday, recruiters from Northrop-Grumman were at the CSULB College of Engineering to help veterans present their military experience in a way that  stands out for hiring managers going through stacks of resumes.

“The resume workshop for veterans offered tips on how to translate a military background to a civilian-friendly resume,” said Eddie Jimenez, a Northrop Grumman university relations specialist. “The idea is to help them create better resumes.” Continue reading “Northrop Grumman Holds Resume Workshop for Post-Military Students”

CECS’s Alvaro Monge Completes Google Faculty in Residence Summer Program

Graduating computer science students are all too familiar with the technical interview, where they’re asked to solve a problem on a whiteboard to demonstrate why they might be a useful addition to the team. However, that approach is in sharp contrast to the usual college lectures, where students sit quietly as professors click through their slide decks.

That will now change—at least in some of Professor Alvaro Monge’s computer science classes—thanks to his newfound experience with project-based learning.

Monge was one of 21 faculty from 20 U.S. institutions serving underrepresented students who participated in Google’s Faculty in Residence program this summer. The four-week program in Mountain View, Calif., offered an immersive learning experience to explore hands-on, project-based learning workshops. Continue reading “CECS’s Alvaro Monge Completes Google Faculty in Residence Summer Program”

Professional Engineers Share College and Career Experiences with BESST Students

As an engineering undergrad in the 1960s, Jeff Clements was told by one professor that he wasn’t “college material.” But that didn’t stop Clements from earning his bachelor’s degree in 1962—then his master’s and doctorate—and go on to help produce space hardware for top aerospace companies such as Hughes, TRW, and Raytheon.

Clements, the first African-American CSULB student to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, was one of two speakers to share experiences Monday with incoming students of the Beach Engineering Student Success Team (BESST), which features intensive tutoring and cohort-based classes. Continue reading “Professional Engineers Share College and Career Experiences with BESST Students”