GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Thanks to a donation by Chevron, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Mississippi State University are now closer to kicking off their brand new engineering program.
Chevron has committed to donating $100,000 a year for the next three years to the engineering program to help get it off the ground.
MSU announced last year that it would soon be offering an engineering degree on the Jackson County campus of MGCCC.
It's students like Jim Johnson that represent the impact of the new relationship between the two institutions.
Working part-time at his family's business makes getting a degree in Starkville a distant dream.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to go to class close to home, otherwise I wouldn't be able to get a degree," said Johnson.
Now, he plans to graduate with a bachelors in electrical engineering right here on the coast. That, according to MSU president Dr. Mark Keenum, is the heartbeat of the new program.
Keenum said there is also an advantage to attracting students to stay near their home rather than going across state lines for the same potentially lucrative degree.
"If we can keep students here in Mississippi, give them an opportunity to get their education, and prepare for the future right here, we have a better chance of them staying here," said Keenum.
That could mean working in South Mississippi industries, like Pascagoula's Chevron Refinery.
"We're going to continue to need to fill the pipeline with young, bright, engineering students," said the refinery's general manager Bruce Chinn. "And we hope that this will certainly continue to do that going forward."
According to Chinn, that's why the refinery decided to donate $150,000 to the program.
Dr. Mary Graham, the president of MGCCC, says the funds will go to great use.
"That will upgrade our current facilities," said Graham. "So as we expand and offer room for Mississippi State, those dollars will help renovate those facilities."
That falls right in line with one of Chevron's missions in the community, said Chinn.
"It's just really consistent with Chevron's approach to education," said Chinn.
That approach includes funding development of students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Classes in the new engineering program will begin in spring 2016 at MGCCC's Jackson County campus. Initially, the program will offer degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering.