UNCW Office of Facilities Internship Provides Minority Engineering Students Valuable Experience

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Four minority students explored future careers in design and construction through the UNCW Office of Facilities Summer Internship Program.

The facilities office launched the nine-week program this summer to provide opportunities to minority engineering students, who are historically underserved in the design and construction industries. The goal was to support interns building skills and gaining real-world work experience in a facilities management setting on a higher education campus.

"We can offer a unique learning opportunity as a university with a large variety of facility types and with complex building systems," said Rachel Patrick, director of Architectural & Construction Services at UNCW. "We employ and collaborate with a variety of designers and engineers, who the interns are able to interact with and learn from."

Patrick said students were immersed in the work culture within the Office of Facilities. Interns learned about HVAC and chiller systems' operations, troubleshooting and finding ways to make systems more efficient. They attended the Appalachian State Energy Summit with facilities staff and participated in interviews and presentations from firms interested in working with the university.

"The internship taught me a lesson about the real world, and that engineering is not just about building or creating," said Branden Gibson, a mechanical engineering student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. "It truly opened my eyes to all of the engineering opportunities. It also demonstrated to me the need for more individuals who look like me in the engineering field. My goal is to become a mentor to young black males and help to introduce them to the STEM world."

Nile Keiller, a mechanical engineering major at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, said the internship provided him a glimpse of what would be his career.

"It was a great opportunity to get experience in my field," he said. "The greatest lesson I learned was to ask as many questions as you need to learn as much as possible. My time here was short and I wanted to pick up as much information as possible."

Marc Thornton, a business administration major from East Carolina University, agreed, saying the internship "provided hands-on experience as well as a first-person point of view of how business works. We received insight into how they carry out their work every day.”

Vaughn Taylor, a mechanical engineering major at N.C. A&T State University, worked with staff in the university's Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses, which aids minority and women-owned businesses interested in securing projects with the university. Taylor said he appreciated the opportunity to learn the business side of architecture, construction and engineering related to state construction projects.

"It was great being able to understand the process from start to finish; not just the construction, but also the planning and getting the key people together," he said.

Facilities staff is considering expanding the program to provide a cooperative education opportunity in the spring for one of the interns, said Patrick. This will allow the intern to return to campus and receive a greater depth of work experience within the facilities office.

"The goal is to expose the intern to real work-related challenges they would not get to experience in a classroom and have them work directly with our own facilities engineers," Patrick added.

-- Venita Jenkins


Four interns standing near a construction site at Randall Library on the UNCW campus

From left to right: Branden Gibson, N.C. A&T State University; Marc Thorton, East Carolina University; Nile Keiller, Wentworth Institute of Technology; and Vaughn Taylor, N.C. A&T State University explored careers in design and construction through the UNCW Office of Facilities Summer Internship Program.