Diving for success

Northwestern Michigan College students and guest instructors conduct a multi-beam survey of Grand Traverse Bay aboard the NMC research vessel. Multi-beam sonar is utilized throughout the Great Lakes and world's oceans to map both the depth of water, activity within the water column and the type of substrate that is at the bottom.

TRAVERSE CITY — Students who have completed a relatively new program at Northwestern Michigan College are receiving their bachelor's degree and multiple job offers.

The bachelor of science in marine technology degree was created two years ago to follow the associate degree in marine technology. Bachelor-level classes started in 2015 with the first round of graduates already finding offers.

"The degree is one-of-a-kind and is really the only one of its kind in North America," said Hans VanSumeren, Great Lakes Water Studies Institute director. "It's our degree entirely and students can get their bachelor's degree straight from us (NMC). It was created as a unique response to what we have been hearing through the industry."

VanSumeren said students that exited NMC with their associate degree were ready for work in marine technology but had a hard time finding managerial positions.

"We are essentially providing a continuation in the education to cover advanced skills to help make our students ready for project management and more technical work," he said. "Because of this, our graduates, even before they graduate, are finding job offers within the field."

Multiple students have accepted job offers to work on renewable ocean technologies, hydrographic surveys and mappings of lakes and oceans, creating bridges and more.

Ryan Ware, a recent NMC graduate, hired into Phoenix International Inc. right after graduating and within four days on the job was in Australia searching for Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

"After we were done there I went to Argentina looking for a missing submarine," Ware said. "I'm back now though and am helping to build a remote operated vehicle doing all the wiring and control panels."

Ware said the education he received at NMC helped him get his job and that it would've been hard to do without it.

"I learned all of my basics through NMC and my employer was impressed by that. I was impressed by the program and everything I was taught," he said.

Other NMC students have found work locally and find pleasure in building their own vehicles.

Dave Straughen, a student looking to graduate next year, already has an internship under his belt and is designing his own autonomous underwater vehicles with hopes of finding future work as an engineer.

Straughen decided to attend NMC after his military career and initially was interested in the unmanned aerial systems program before pursuing his bachelor's.

"I used my benefits to go to school and play with toys again," he said. "I'm doing it for myself and because of the first program and what I am studying now I will know how to manage and engineer both unmanned aircrafts and underwater vehicles."

Earlier this year Straughen finished an internship with the Michigan State Police and its marine services which gave him insight into how his education could be applied to real-world situations.

"They used pretty much every piece of equipment I learned about through the program so I had the knowledge I needed," he said. "I was also able to teach them some things they could do they didn't know about."

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