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Rockford-area students gear up for careers in engineering

October 31, 2018

Nearly 150 Rockford-area high school students visited NIU-Rockford for a school field trip to learn about careers in engineering, and the educational pathway to obtain one. The Gearing Up for Engineering school field trip provided prospective students with information on NIU’s six engineering bachelor’s degree programs offered in DeKalb as well as the NIU Engineering @ RVC program.

The NIU Engineering @ RVC program is an innovative partnership with Rock Valley College and the Rockford-area manufacturing industry that enables students to earn NIU’s B.S. in Mechanical Engineering by taking classes taught by NIU faculty at RVC’s newly renovated Woodward Technology Center. Designed to meet the growing demand for highly-trained engineering professionals, the program also offers students opportunities for internships, mentors and jobs.

NIU Alumni Divya Behl (M.S. in Industrial Systems Engineering, ’08), Kristina Johnson (B.S. in Electrical Engineering, ’01), Decker Ouanesy (B.S. in Technology with an emphasis in Applied Manufacturing Technology, ’18) and Kevin Woerner (B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, ’07) answer questions posed by Society of Women Engineers representative and guest moderator and Dayna Johnson and Rockford-area students during the Gearing Up for Engineering school field trip on Oct. 23, 2018.

Dean Don Peterson from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and program chairs spoke to prospective students about the future of engineering, and the NIU bachelor’s degrees that students can pursue to help them reach their career goals. In addition, four alumni currently employed in the Rockford-area manufacturing industry shared first-hand their career experiences and how NIU’s programs have helped pave their paths to success.

Connor Jones, a senior at Hononegah High School, valued the information that was shared. “I learned about the variety of career options available in the field of engineering and the trends affecting the industry,” he said. “I’m interested in the mechanical engineering program offered by NIU at Rock Valley because I’m already taking classes at RVC while completing my senior year of high school.”

Rockford-area teachers are also showing interest in the program.

“Since we are offering engineering coursework at our high school and college is expensive, we want to help our students find an affordable option,” said Sarah Olson, an advisor at Hononegah High School. “This event really helped our students gather information about an option that boosts our local community and allows our students to stay local.”

Building a local pool of talent is one of the goals of the partnership between NIU and its Rockford-area collaborators.

“Rockford businesses feel the local talent is continually growing,” said NIU alum and presenter Kevin Woerner, who works as the director of Engineering and Supply Chain at Ipsen, an industrial furnace manufacturer located in Cherry Valley, Illinois.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure that this community offers a quality education and the best opportunities for great starting positions after college. Staying local is key and promoting Rockford educational options is important to us,” Woerner added.

To learn more about the NIU Engineering @ RVC program, visit or contact Andrew Kopecky at [email protected]. To learn more about all of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s bachelor’s degree programs, visit the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology website or contact [email protected].