I am one of 80 students in the Three Rivers Community College’s civil engineering and environmental engineering technology programs who are urging the Board of Regents to save the civil engineering technology program.

We want the Board of Regents to immediately delay its decision, now set for today, on terminating the civil engineering technology program until the end of this summer to allow for a “cool down” period, since this issue has caused such public outcry and pushback from the public and private sectors. That’s what needs to happen first. Then we want our offered solutions to be heard and considered. We haven’t been given the time of day thus far.

Here are our main points:

The changes being made by the Three Rivers administration alter the current civil and environmental engineering technology curriculum to a point where it limits our options for pursuing higher education post-graduation and does not adequately prepare us for the workforce upon achieving our associate’s degree.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the state Department of Transportation, legislators and industry leaders alike are unified in opposing the changes to our programs.

The necessity for environmental and civil engineering degrees in the state is obvious. But what about funding? Can we sustain the program without assistance from the state or federal governments? The answer is yes. The program was grant funded for 9 years until the current administrators forbade the program coordinator from seeking further funding. In January 2016, the same administration turned down a $1.3 million National Science Foundation grant proposal. President Mary Ellen Jukoski stated that she would only support this grant renewal if our program coordinator was removed from the grant and someone else from Three Rivers replaced her. Our program coordinator was one of the original group who authored this grant and renewed it for the past 15 years. When the principal investigator from the University of Connecticut refused to cut our coordinator from the grant, Jukoski would not accept the grant participation. This grant proposal’s main goal was to support under-represented and first generation students and would have supported the students in STEM education.

These programs are the only programs of their kind at the community college level in the state, and one of only a few in all of New England. The civil and environmental industry is growing, so the need for these types of professionals is greater than ever. For example, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is releasing a 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan that includes highway, bridge, rail and bus proposals, so engineering technicians will continue to be needed in Connecticut.

These programs are STEM career pathways. Through them, we become hands-on, applied technologists with a valuable skillset that grants us better professional placement coming directly out of Three Rivers. For example, the DOT wants to make our programs a work-study program to help prepare us for jobs when we graduate from either program because the need for our specialized skillset is so great.

Our programs are just as strong as (and stronger than) at least 30 other programs at Three Rivers that are not up for termination.

The programs belong together because environmental engineering grew out of the civil engineering program. Civil and environmental engineering programs at other colleges are housed together and, in the professional world, you can’t have one without the other.

Our academic dean suggests that civil engineering technology must be terminated in order to create civil technology. This is simply not the case. They are two very different programs that don’t even belong under the same umbrella.

Terminating the civil engineering technology programs will be very damaging to the students’ educational and professional development and to Connecticut’s workforce pipeline since Three Rivers is the only community college to offer these programs in the state.

Merging civil engineering technology and environmental engineering technology into one program will greatly increase enrollment and graduation rates. We feel very strongly that this is the best and most viable option for all parties.

When accreditors asked for changes in 2010 in several of Three Rivers’ engineering programs, including the civil engineering technology program, the administration did not provide enough support. The faculty complained about this, and our program coordinator wanted to make corrections, but the administration said no.

Five civil engineering technology students and six environmental engineering technology students are graduating this year. If the programs are merged, then it would average 6 to 10 graduates a year.

The civil engineering professional community was not consulted in this process.

The administration claims our program is expensive, but that is not true. We have one faculty member who teaches the two programs. There are adjuncts teaching some of the courses. We own all of our lab equipment. We were grant-funded until the administration cut us off at the knees. The administration still cannot offer an explanation for why they turned down the $1.3 million grant.

Board of Regents, please vote today to delay the decision to move forward with this termination until the end of the summer.

Jennifer Messervy from Salem is a student in the environmental engineering technology program at Three Rivers Community College.

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