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Milligan graduates first engineering class

A water purification system installed in Sneedville, Tennessee, by Milligan engineering students.

Engineering faculty and students dig a tunnel to insert pipeline.

Senior Sarah Robinson helped create face shields for healthcare providers.

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (May 9, 2020) — The first graduates of Milligan College’s bachelor’s degree in engineering will receive their diplomas this May.

“It is gratifying to have our first engineering graduates receive their degrees,” said Milligan President Dr. Bill Greer. “When the program was first envisioned several years ago, we were committed to developing a program that offered quality technical preparation within the context of a broad-based, liberal arts curriculum. It wasn’t easy, but this approach has set us apart. Our faculty are world-class and, in keeping with our mission, our students are both career ready and service-oriented. I look forward to being able to celebrate their achievements in person very soon.”

Since its inception, Milligan’s engineering program has kept the college’s mission at the forefront of its curriculum and embraced opportunities to use engineering to change lives. From adapting toy ride-on vehicles for children with mobility differences to focusing their senior design projects on providing clean water to three rural communities, the faculty and students have utilized engineering principles to solve everyday problems, locally and abroad.

“We approach the standard way of teaching engineering in a very Milligan way—all of the problems we ask our students to solve are real problems,” said Dr. Greg Harrell, engineering programs director. “Like other engineering programs, our students analyze, research, design, test and build solutions. Yet, when our students install their designs, it is not performed in a lab in our engineering building. Our students have installed water purification systems on a mountainside in an isolated community that is in desperate need of reliable, sustainable and affordable clean water.”

For their senior engineering design project, students designed water purification and delivery systems for residents in Sneedville, Tennessee; Turkana, Kenya; and Sambalat, Kenya. For each project, the engineering students worked with faith organizations, including the Jubilee Project, CMF International and Emmanuel Christian Seminary.

The real-world application of these engineering projects has prepared each senior for the professional world.

Many factors outside of engineering had to be considered in each of their senior projects, such as affordability, maintainability of their design, geography and different cultural perspectives. For the international projects, Milligan’s seniors relied heavily on communication with partnering organizations to understand the problems and conceptualize their designs.

Students also learned to expect roadblocks as their designs moved from testing in the lab to real locations. For the Sneedville water project, the students discovered on one of their trips that the pipeline installed to carry clean water had been crushed by a massive boulder. The students and faculty had to adapt their project’s timeline as they incorporated manual labor into the project to remove the boulder and replace the pipeline themselves.

As the seniors prepared to put the finishing touches on their projects, the campus closed in response to COVID-19. Amid this upheaval, the engineering department remained committed to service. Led by Dr. Landon Holbrook, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, students and faculty went to work in their garages and basements to design, produce and donate face shields for essential workers.

Milligan’s engineering department produced 20 masks a day and has donated over 170 shields. These face shields have been delivered to workers at Ballad Health; Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare Systems; medical clinics in Johnson City, Tennessee; a dentist office; and a nursing facility in Johnson City.

In reflecting on her time in the engineering program, senior Sarah Robinson, of Elizabethton, Tennessee, shared, “I came to Milligan to learn how to be the best at engineering and, more importantly, to apply this knowledge to the service of others.

“As the first class, we have a special bond with our professors and peers,” said Robinson. “You think it would be scary to be the first class, but we’ve had the opportunity to be really collaborative because we are all learning together. There are many trial and error moments in engineering, and the Milligan community instills in you how to show each other grace in these moments. I think this learning environment really helps prepare us for our careers and to be servant-leaders in our community.”

To learn more about Milligan engineering, visit milligan.edu/engineering.

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MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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