Expanding Our Reach
Baylor's Department of Mechanical Engineering is seeing a surge in the number of its interns and graduates hired into the growing and evolving petroleum industry.
"We're a young program, and up until a few years ago, Baylor didn't show up on the petroleum industry's radar," said Dr. David Jack, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "In the last year or two, we've seen a significant increase in the number of our students being hired and offered internships within the petroleum industry."
The strategy is to keep that momentum going with new research projects and increased investments of time and money. In 2012, the department received a new source of funding designed to bolster that strategy and established the Excellence Fund for Baylor Student Advancement in the Petroleum Industry. The Excellence Fund is designed to support student and faculty research, travel, classroom lectures, labs and senior design projects.
The fund was established by a generous gift from Glen and Laurie Benge, whose daughter Maggie is a graduate student in Baylor's Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program.
"This was seed money. We want it to grow," Glen said. "We want everybody to know what we know – that Baylor is a top-notch engineering school."
Both Glen and Laurie have worked for decades in the oil and gas industry. Glen retired from ExxonMobil as a senior technical advisor with expertise in petroleum engineering and chemistry. Laurie is an industrial hygienist with a master's degree in environmental science. Their children, John and Maggie, are following in their footsteps.
From a professional standpoint, the Benges say they are impressed with Baylor's interdisciplinary approach to research and the University's dedication to student success. Their goal is to help build Baylor's standing within the engineering sector of the petroleum industry – a thriving field that they believe needs the high-caliber, high-quality mechanical engineers that Baylor produces.
"Baylor students are unique, ethical, and they have a foundation in faith. They're the kind of engineers we need," Laurie said.
Glen added that not every engineering program trains students for the type of meaningful collaboration that's a daily component of the industry. "Baylor has engineers who work with each other. For example, they design projects that call for teamwork between multiple engineering disciplines."
Dr. Jack said the Benge family's investment, professional insight and guidance provides an integral boost to the program. Because of the Excellence Fund, students will have more exposure and opportunities to interact with leading companies in the petroleum industry.
"We see the market need," Jack says. "The petroleum field wants mechanical engineers, and there's an interest in Baylor."
Glen hopes the fund will help more students find ways to present at professional conferences and work their way into valuable internships. He says the job outlook is "excellent" for qualified mechanical engineers in the industry, and competitive graduates can expect high salaries.
"There are opportunities for mechanical engineers both domestically and internationally," Glen said, adding that one of the best ways to gain experience is to attend the conferences and participate to the fullest extent possible. "With that kind of exposure, more people in the petroleum industry will realize the quality of the engineers at Baylor and will definitely come knocking at your door."
Jack said mechanical engineering faculty continuously looks for research collaborations with leading petroleum companies. "If you go to any of the career fairs, virtually every vendor wants mechanical engineers. We have an opportunity as a faculty and up-and- coming students to make an impact," he said.
The Benges say they view the Excellence Fund as an investment in the future – Baylor's future and the future of the industry they've dedicated their professional lives to for many years.
"We know the University will be a good steward of the money," Glen said. "We don't have to worry about Baylor doing the job right."
If you have any questions about giving to the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Baylor, please contact Leigh Ann Marshall.