Few professions face such rapid change and transformation as engineering, so it should come as no surprise that the Johns Hopkins Part-time Programs in Engineering and Applied Science (PTE) are among the fastest growing at the University.
- With education centers around Maryland and in Washington, DC, PTE serves a student body of some 2,200 working professionals in search of academic and professional development.
- More than 400 faculty members from the Whiting School of Engineering, the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), other divisions of Hopkins, and private and government organizations teach in 13 PTE graduate and three undergraduate degree programs.
- Of its 460 graduate and undergraduate courses in PTE, more than a dozen are offered online.
- Over the past decade, PTE has awarded more than 5,000 degrees.
Impressive as they are, these numbers only tell part of the story. It is the part-time students’ passion and dedication that really tell the tale. Their reasons for going back to school are as far-reaching as the professional paths they seek.
Keeping Current: Ray Livermore ’02 MSE
While earning a master’s degree in environmental engineering, 34-year old Ray Livermore ’02 MSE says he took classes at “just about every location” PTE has around the state. The Timonium resident squeezed in classes at the Homewood campus, in Montgomery and Harford counties, and at the Dorsey Center near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The busy environmental engineer is an employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown Baltimore, as well as a husband and a father of two. Now that he has completed the program, he doesn’t hesitate to tell people “how good it is to have a normal life again.” Still, he doesn’t regret for a minute the sacrifices he has made to advance his career and grow in his profession. “If you are not up on the latest techniques,” he says, “you will be left behind.”
At the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Livermore earned his undergraduate degree in marine engineering, then went to work at a Naval shipyard in South Carolina, refueling nuclear subs. He later became involved in the cleanup and closing of bases. Thus began his foray into environmental engineering, specifically in the area of toxic and radiation remediation.
His job with the Corps involves the restoration and cleanup of military bases and active or formerly used defense sites where contamination has been found. He and his team of engineers also provide technical consultation for civilian sites that look to the Corps for expertise. Livermore realized additional schooling would be necessary “to feel more comfortable” in his new field. The PTE environmental engineering program, which many of his co-workers also have completed, seemed like a good fit. “Engineering is really a core of skills that can pertain to many kinds of problem-solving challenges,” says Livermore. With his PTE degree, he observes, “I feel armed with more knowledge, ready for the new challenges that make engineering really interesting.”
Energy in Action: Jackie Dvorak
On one of her two days off each week, PTE undergraduate Jacqueline M. Dvorak drops off her 5-year-old son at kindergarten before settling down to a solid day of studying. Her 7-year old daughter makes it to dancing lessons with the help of her husband, David. Sometimes he’ll take the children to spend a weekend with relatives to give her more time to study. “I have to give my husband a lot of credit,” says the energetic 33-year old.
An engineering technician at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland, Dvorak will complete her BSE next spring. She is part of the first undergraduate PTE class to graduate from the Hopkins Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in the nearby town of California.
“A lot of people don’t understand the importance of getting both electrical and mechanical engineering in a single degree,” Dvorak explains. “But it’s a natural for anyone who wants to move into project management, or get into systems design.” And a Hopkins degree “ has such a great reputation,” she adds.
She and her husband are now considering pursuing MSE degrees together (he is an engineer at Calvert Cliffs). “We just really believe in education,” she says. “I love to be challenged. I think learning should be an ongoing process.”
Going the Distance: Dan Kelly ’93 MSE
At 36, Dan Kelly is well along the way to his second master’s degree through PTE. He earned his MSE in electrical engineering in 1993 and expects to complete his MSE in computer science next summer. Kelly keeps focused on learning, thanks to an understanding fiancée and his own commitment to the idea that “I am in an information field, and the most important information is that which is in your brain.”
As a principal technical staff member at AT&T in Columbia, Maryland, Kelly oversees a team of six other engineers in the AT&T Solutions group. His team develops “everything from custom-built embedded switching and telephony applications to web sites and databases” for corporate customers. “The fun part about this job,” he observes, “is there is always something new.”
The dedicated athlete whose goal is to “run a marathon in every state” knows his most grueling race is to fit everything into the day. When he’s not solving problems, counseling his team, or in class at the APL Education Center or the Dorsey Center, he’s likely to be training for the distance running he loves, “usually at about 6 a.m.,” he laughs.
Kelly chose the Whiting School’s PTE program for several reasons. “Hopkins has an emphasis on software engineering,” which is exactly the direction he was moving. Also, “It’s convenient for me,” says the Owings Mills resident. He’s impressed that the PTE program “looks for suggestions on how they can meet your needs.”
Most PTE students—and faculty members—are working professionals. “We either know what we want to enhance or what we want to get involved in,” he says.
Ever since childhood, Kelly has nurtured his love of engineering. “I’ve always been fascinated by how things work,” he says. “I enjoy solving problems, challenges, finding out how the world ticks. I love to build things.”
Master of Hurdles: Gary Day ’87 MSE
Like any good programmer and software engineer, Gary Day ’87 MSE has found work-arounds. But he has one more challenge than most people: He is blind. Ever resourceful, Day has now almost completed his second master’s degree at PTE.
“I came to Maryland from the University of Maine with an undergraduate degree in mathematics to work for the National Security Agency,” Day says. He completed his master’s in computer science at PTE between 1985 and 1987. Now the 50-year old NSA computer analyst is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate for Post- Master’s Study program, for he wants to “get back up to speed on all the latest technology.”
The Whiting School’s PTE program offers some definite advantages, Day affirms. “I can take classes in the evening,” he says, when it’s easier to get a cab. And the APL Education Center is near his home in Laurel.
“I think of myself as primarily a UNIX programmer,” Day says. One of the things he likes best about PTE is access to state-of-theart workstations running Sun Solaris (a UNIX operating system). The class he recently took in distributed development on the web was made easier because of this. “Sun is a system set up with all the necessary compilers,” he explains. “I can do all software development there much more easily.” The class, which focuses on Java scripting of “applets that run within browsers,” requires testing from within other browsers. “I can test them from home just by calling up the pages within the browser where I have all of my speech recognition applications installed,” he says.
Day makes use of learning materials in alternate forms, for example, tape recordings of texts as well as PDFs converted into computer-readable text for his speech recognition software.
When asked why it is so important to continue his education, Day is matter-of-fact: “A major concern in software development today is computer platform independence. The best way to build software that will run on any computer is to build applications to run on the web.” The people at PTE are all up on the latest web technologies, and the programs are geared toward working professionals,” he says. “It’s a really collegial environment.”
For more information on the Whiting School’s part-time programs, visit www.wse.jhu.edu/pte/ or call 1-800-548-3647.