They were called the “best and the brightest,” and now many of the students who helped kick-start the current era of The University of Alabama are taking positions of responsibility in their careers, strengthening their alma mater’s name as well as their own.
“Having these fine graduates begin to rise in their respective organizations is both great for them as well as for the College of Engineering,” said Dr. Charles L. Karr, dean of the College. “Their success reflects positively on our institution and allows us to continue our momentum. It is a positive cycle.”
In 2003, Dr. Robert E. Witt, former president of the University and current chancellor of The University of Alabama System, announced a plan to enroll more students than ever. He said UA would seek out the “best and brightest” students from Alabama and the rest of the country.
Since then, each academic year has opened with record enrollment, and the number of graduates has increased along with the growth of the student body. Since the 2003–04 academic year, the UA College of Engineering has seen the number of degrees awarded increase nearly 82 percent.
“In the past decade, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of graduates from our program, and we are very proud of the success that our graduates have experienced over the years,” Karr said.
Tim Bailey, BSEE ’08, is one of the College’s alumni to experience success. Less than a decade after college, where he worked on audio production for Crimson Tide athletic events, he has become manager of Systems Commissioning at Waveguide Consulting, a leading technology and audio-visual consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia.
At Waveguide, Bailey heads one of four company departments and reports directly to the owners. He oversees 30–40 projects at a given time around the country and internationally, he said. In working on projects, he has encountered many UA engineering graduates.
“There is a shared camaraderie and pride that may be as simple as a five minute conversation before a meeting, but it establishes a mutual respect,” Bailey said. “In my experience, the reputation UA has amongst its (Southeastern Conference) peers and around the rest of the country creates a similar opportunity to develop relationships on project teams.
“Some days it’s exchanging a ‘Roll Tide’ for ‘Roll Tide,’ other days maybe a ‘Roll Tide’ to a ‘War Eagle’ or ‘Go Vols,’” he said “I’m pretty sure I have also heard ‘Go Trojans,’ ‘Go Ducks’ and ‘Go Irish’ all around conference room tables. Every time it leads to me sharing one of many stories from my experience at UA.”
“We’ve got some really high-quality people from the University, whether it be full-time or co-op. It makes me really proud to be a graduate.”
— Joey Glasgow
Bailey chose UA with help from his grandfather, who loved the University, and is glad he chose to study electrical engineering at the Capstone.
“At the risk of sounding cliché, the educational process at UA engineering taught me how to approach, digest and master technical concepts and issues,” Bailey said. “As my job roles and responsibilities have changed, which aspects of my experience at UA I draw from changes as well, but no less valuable today as the day I started.”
For Joey Glasgow, BSME ’03, his experience at UA prepared him to work across many working groups and cultures at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance, Alabama, he said. After starting with MBUSI, Glasgow has worked his way from welding engineer to his current position as senior manager of body shop operations within the auto-production plant. He oversees production, maintenance and engineering on the build of the body for GLS, GLE, GLE Coupe and R-Class cars.
In his role, Glasgow interacts a lot with students working at MBUSI as part of UA’s Cooperative Education and Professional Practice Program, getting a front-row seat to the quality students in the College, some of whom go on to work at the plant after graduation.
“We’ve got some really high-quality people from the University, whether it be full-time or co-op,” he said. “It makes me really proud to be a graduate.”
Kendale Thomas, BSME ’10, agrees that his entire experience in the College prepared him for his job, and he credits his former professors for their guidance. He keeps in touch with Drs. John Baker and Clark Midkiff, he said.
“Those are relationships that I will always cherish,” Thomas said. “To me, that is what separates UA’s College of Engineering from any other school. The time and effort that the professors put in to get to know their students is priceless.”
“At UA, I gained the confidence and belief that all problems were meant to be solved.”
– Kendale Thomas
After internships at Vulcan Materials Co., BE&K Engineering and Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. during college, Thomas went to work for Eaton Aerospace after graduation. He then transitioned back to KBR as a mechanical engineer before becoming a project manager at Kinder Morgan, a leading pipeline-transportation and energy-storage company.
At Kinder Morgan, he manages a wide range of natural-gas pipeline and measurement projects on the Southern Natural Gas Pipeline System. He still calls upon his courses at the University — from heat transfer to fluids — but more than that, he learned how to dig deep into complex problems at UA, he said.
“Anyone can solve an easy problem,” Thomas said. “What separates the good from the great in corporate America is the willpower to solve problems or issues that most would shy away from because of the level of difficulty. At UA, I gained the confidence and belief that all problems were meant to be solved.”
The College prepared LaTasha Merchant, BSCE ’04, for the transition from college student to full-time engineer. She began her career designing roadways for the Alabama Department of Transportation and is now a section manager for ALDOT, responsible for supervising, reviewing and approving geometric designs and plan assemblies and ensuring projects run on time.
Merchant said she has worked with UA engineering graduates during her career.
“My first boss was a UA grad, and that was really exciting coming right out of college to have someone that shared the UA experience and pride,” she said. “I don’t think my first six years here at ALDOT would have been the same without it.”
Thomas agrees. Two project managers he works with at Kinder Morgan are UA engineering graduates.
“We do have a shared camaraderie and pride in our school,” he said. “‘Roll Tide’ is the normal ‘hello’ for us.”
In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s College of Engineering has more than 5,800 students and more than 130 faculty. In recent years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Boren, Mitchell and Truman scholars.