by Dr. Andrew Dale, AVP of Community Relations
OXFORD - A new partnership called the "Redshirt Engineering Program" was established June 21 between Northwest Mississippi Community College Oxford Campus and The School of Engineering at The University of Mississippi. This agreement will allow aspiring engineering students to simultaneously earn a degree from both institutions while qualifying for Northwest and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) transfer scholarships. It will also provide students with the option of living in and experiencing Oxford while still having the advantages of taking Northwest classes.
It started as an idea between Marni Kendricks, UM senior assistant engineering dean, and Josh Guest, Northwest district director of mathematics; both saw the need for an alternate entry point for future engineers. The “Redshirt Engineering Program" aims to help under-prepared students with interest and academic potential build a strong math and science foundation. This can be accomplished on a small campus through an encouraging, nurturing cohort environment focused on positive classroom and co-op experiences that prepare a student for success in engineering.
"The ‘Redshirt Engineering Program’ will give a select cohort group of students each fall the opportunity to prepare for success in engineering, entering their junior year of the engineering curriculum as full-time, on-time students with a solid foundation academically and experientially, and an AA degree," said Kendricks. "The timing is perfect for introducing this partnership after two years of adverse COVID educational impact on high school students in our state and around the nation."
"This is a win-win situation – both for the institutions and, more importantly, for the students," Guest said. "I am so grateful for the vision and leadership of Dr. Boyce and Dr. Heindl and for the partnership with the university to provide this opportunity to these students."
After serving as president of one of Mississippi’s community colleges and as commissioner of Mississippi’s IHL system, UM Chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce stated, "Mississippi has the finest community college system in America and the finest students in that system. I am especially honored to be a part of this collaboration and to have this relationship with Northwest."
Dr. Michael Heindl, Northwest president, said he is excited that the community college continues to find ways to partner with the university to benefit students from across the country. "The way this partnership came together is a best-fit solution that helps both institutions serve student needs. Northwest's vision of transforming student lives, enriching our local communities, and striving for excellence in our programs and services is the central thread with every advancement the college makes, especially this one."
Dr. Don Jones, dean of Northwest’s Oxford campus, said this program is different from other colleges with similar programs. “Students will work closely with our program champions, math department chair Joshua Guest and senior assistant dean Marni Kendricks. They will enjoy NWCC's small class sizes, individual attention, and scholarship opportunities. They will have the benefit of living in Oxford, the best college town in America, where student apartments, the Oxford University Transit System, and an amazing variety of food and entertainment are readily available. From day one, they will be members of the Ole Miss engineering community, participating in projects and leadership opportunities.”
There is another exciting element to the program that students may want to take notice of. There is an opportunity that junior-year entry into the Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CME) program will be afforded to interested students enrolled in the partnership program. If a student enrolled in this partnership is admitted to the CME for late entry, they will also be awarded an Emphasis in Manufacturing upon completion of the requirements. Dr. Scott Kilpatrick, UM’s executive director of the CME, stated, "There is a huge demand to keep talent in Mississippi. I think this program will be a great partnership to focus that talent into our state’s workforce.”
University of Mississippi Provost, Dr. Noel E. Wilkin said of the partnership, “For us to come together for students is so important. Students can find pathways on their own, but I have encouraged people on our campus to pave and light those pathways as brightly as we can to help students arrive at successful careers. This program does that.”
Dr. Dave Puleo, UM engineering dean, echoed Wilkin's sentiments. "It's exciting to see the UM-Northwest partnership grow and this Redshirt Program come together," he said. "We wanted to provide additional opportunities for students to pursue engineering degrees, and this program is another – and significant – step in making that happen.”
The idea of this program is held in high regard within the engineering community. Vince Rodriguez, an Ole Miss engineering advisory council member, said, "this is the most important action taken by the school in the past 10 years, and I am excited about it," he said. "It will benefit Northwest. It will benefit UM. It will benefit the state. But most importantly, it will benefit many students who now find a path to get a degree in engineering and open the door for them to pursue their dreams."
The program already has found its first recruit: James Leister of Oxford. "It's a great honor for me to make a pathway for other people," said Leister, a 2022 graduate of Lafayette County High School. "I am excited to be the first student in this program."
A student pursuing the consecutive degrees offered in the "Redshirt Engineering Program" can be admitted to both schools simultaneously and/or sequentially. The student will spend the first three years in full-time enrollment at NWCC while taking UM courses part-time. After completing the first three years at NWCC, the student will enter UM School of Engineering as a full-time student to complete the remaining courses required to earn the engineering degree. It’s worth noting that students earning a 3.5 GPA in the redshirt program are eligible for a full-tuition PTK transfer scholarship ($16,000) at Ole Miss to complete the bachelor's degree. The program is expected to enroll 30-50 students annually.