Cutting civil engineering tech at Three Rivers — a big mistake

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A letter to the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education,

It has come to our attention that the Civil Engineering Technology program at Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) is in grave danger of being terminated.  Also, the Environmental Engineering Technology program is being threatened by being changed to an “Environmental Science” program.

These changes will be a huge mistake for the TRCC administration to make.

The change of Environmental Engineering Technology to Environmental Science doesn’t allow for students to work in the field as does Environmental Engineering Technology because the “Engineering Technology” is what secures the jobs for the students.

Having the title “Technician” indicates having the skill set and ability to execute necessary field work such as using metering devices and other equipment to monitor environmental pollution.  It is a career pathway.  Having environmental “science” in most cases requires a bachelor of science degree for jobs.

TRCC’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology programs are strong career paths for many students who may choose not to pursue further education.  The curriculums for these two programs are high-level, hands-on training.

Being the only school in the state to offer these comprehensive programs makes TRCC pioneers for the betterment of society and the environment.  Civil and Environmental Engineering are invaluable fields worldwide, and there is a gross shortage of civil and environmental engineering technicians.  In fact, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 16 percent growth rate is projected for jobs in the environmental engineering field over the next couple of years.

Civil employment growth has a bit of a slower growth projection, but needs to be sustained because of infrastructure changes and maintenance.  For example, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is releasing a 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan that includes a five-year, $10 billion buildup to get the projects started.  The plan includes highway, bridge, rail and bus proposals, along with $100 million for bike trails.

This work will require staff with our specific skill set.  This means job opportunities for the TRCC Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology graduates and even further illustrates the need for these programs to remain as they are, not to mention the continuous need for a consistent flow of graduates from these programs throughout the future.

Regarding TRCC Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology students specifically, local industry officials, including federal and state government industry, are literally waiting for us to graduate from TRCC so they can hire us.  Through our interactive, real-world education, we have been privileged to be able to network with professionals in the industry while we are in process in the programs.

That’s how good and extensive these programs are.  Civil should NOT be terminated, and Environmental should be left alone.

The students in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology programs at TRCC work hard to emulate good sustainable stewardship, although we are often overlooked by our administrators.  Most of us are nontraditional or first generation students.  We work, have kids, and go to school part or full time.

TRCC’s academic theme last year was sustainability.  Under our club name, TRUE (Three Rivers United Environmentalists), we work on many projects that exemplify sustainability, community outreach, and stewardship.  It is confusing, frustrating, and seems counterproductive that our administration doesn’t seem more interested in much of our work.

Without the school’s backing, we find ourselves writhing to maintain the high standard that we strive for in all of our academic endeavors.  Our projects are designed to be indefinitely self-sustaining.  We use them for community outreach and stewardship, and for educational tools to enrich our academic experience as well as that of future students in these programs.

We strongly believe in and love our programs and the projects that we create.  We are multiple award-winning students who excel in our programs and many of us are well on our way to earning our associates degrees along with multiple certifications, with which we plan to either continue our education at a four-year university of our choice, or enter directly into a professional career.

What makes the TRCC Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology programs so unique compared to other institutions and programs is the direct application of our education. We are being instructed by professionals who are still actively involved in their field. Real world scenarios are being applied inside and outside the classroom.

The amount of confidence we gain from receiving education in these programs allows us to assertively seek and obtain our career goals whether it be to further our education at a four year university or go directly into the workforce. Beyond the curriculum, networking, professional relations, and project organization are common practice in this program.

We use the quantitative and conceptual skills required of civil and environmental engineering technicians to complete this program.  Being able to be involved in such dedicated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs has imparted a sense of societal and ethical responsibility that goes beyond the curriculum to include any and all future endeavors.

Certificates obtained through the completion of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology Programs such as Environmental Health and Safety Management, Surveying and Mapping, HAZWOPER, and Sustainable Landscape Ecology and Conservation are important factors in workplaces today. Having such certificate opportunities available gives us the opportunities for better job placement and promotion. The extensive resume we build during our TRCC careers and the hands-on experience allotted to us is incomparable to most colleges let alone two year colleges.

Many of us have had previous education beyond high school. We believe that one of the biggest success factors this program has to offer is the dedication of our program coordinator. She was apprehensive about us writing this letter, but we feel that it is our responsibility to bring this public information to light.  She has integrated education and real world application for her students. Her students have gained working relationships with the DEEP, the DOT, the EPA, the USGS, CT NOFA, multiple civil and environmental engineering firms, and many others through networking, our volunteer work and our many community outreach events and ongoing projects.

The challenges and struggles we have faced and overcome through foundationless administrative opposition of this program and its endeavors have created in us a sense of community and relationship which in turn has installed a promise to succeed in whatever we put our hands to.

We feel empowered to know the things we can do to help our environment.  This is in essence what someone will obtain if he or she should decide to participate in this program, an unteachable sense of self-efficacy, self-confidence and assurance that we can make a positive impact in our environment.

Please help us keep our programs intact.

Thank you.

Jennifer Messervy, president, on behalf of the Three Rivers United Environmentalists, students of Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology at Three Rivers Community College, Norwich.

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