GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi State University is coming to the Coast. On Thursday, MSU's President signed an agreement to offer engineering programs at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. This unique partnership will mean a lot to students, industries and the local economy.
"Isn't it great to be a Bulldog?" asked the President of Mississippi State University.
The question drew laughter and cheers from a crowd of about 100 people. They gathered to celebrate as two Bulldog families forged an unprecedented partnership. The Presidents of Mississippi State and Gulf Coast Community College agreed to team-up to bring engineering courses to the Jackson County campus.
"I'm elated to be partnering with MSU. We've been long time partners. A lot of our students transfer to MSU, but now the people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be able to get their engineering degree right here in conjunction with MGCCC. It's a great day. It's a historic day," said MGCCC President Dr. Mary Graham.
Two degree programs will be offered. Those under consideration are electrical, civil, industrial and mechanical engineering. Students who finish the two-year program at Gulf Coast can stay and make a seamless transition to the MSU program.
"I'm elated to have the opportunity to bring a first-class engineering program to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I have a wonderful partner in MGCCC to offer opportunities to young students who are aspiring engineers," said Keenum.
MSU will provide at least two faculty members per program. They will teach the higher level courses at the JC campus in Gautier. Students will also take on-line classes taught by instructors at the Starkville campus. Both schools will work together to recruit students.
"Over 25-percent of our high school students are interested in STEM fields and over half of those are particularly interested in engineering. About 42-percent of our transfer students who go to MSU are transferring to go into engineering, so it's a natural partnership for us to have MSU. But what an important thing to bring education to the people," said Graham.
"I think this is what it's all about, creating opportunities for educational access and bringing education to the students in a growing area of our state. That's why I'm so excited and thrilled to have such a great partner with MGCCC," said Dr. Mark Everett Keenum.
The goal is to encourage students to stay close to home to finish their bachelor's degrees and be able to compete for high-paying jobs in the growing field.
"We knew this is a profession that is on the rise, and it's a very important profession for growth and economic development and serving these dynamic industries that are already here along the Coast. We'll be able to provide opportunities for young people today to get the same quality education that they would receive on our campus in Starkville," Keenum said. "Hopefully, this new engineering school will help attract additional industries and businesses."
"I'm a graduate of MSU, and I'm a Bulldog through and through. I bleed maroon and it is an exciting personal day for me, and I think it's going to be an exciting day for our city," said Gautier Mayor Gordon Gollott.
The news conference ended with a gift from MSU. Keenum presented Graham with a cowbell to help seal the deal.
The first degree program could start as early as next fall. More courses could be added based on the demand. Representatives from both schools will meet next week to develop the curriculum.