Seabee base to get first civil engineering degree program on Coast

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Seabees build things. That’s what they do, and a civil engineering degree is a national path. Starting this fall, the first civil engineering degree program on the Coast will be offered at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, specifically designed for Seabees.

“It’s a great fit,” said Darlene Davis, Navy College Programs regional adviser. “It’s a great win for the Seabee community. And, we’re excited.”

However, it was not easy to make happen. Until now, the Navy would not let enlisted sailors in construction trades to become Navy Civil Engineer Corps officers without having to leave the service.

It was a dream of former commanding officer Capt. Bill Whitmire to change that, and it was the work of Davis that made it happen.

“That’s one of the focuses that he said to me is that we need great civil engineering officers and why would we need to lose enlisted folks to the civilian population if we have these folks right here available and want to be a part of this officer community,” said Davis.

Norwich University, located in Vermont, was chosen to give the in-person civil engineering instruction. It’s the oldest senior military college in the United States. It will partner with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community college, which will offer the prep courses.

“It’s a big deal for us because it’s right in alignment with our mission, our vision and our values,” said Kevin Beal of Norwich University. “We’re all about service. And in our third century of service to the republic, we think this is an extension of who we are as an institution.”

The program will be offered to civilians, but it is designed to accommodate the strenuous schedule of Seabees and their families.

“Engineering is not an easy program and it’s even harder if you’re active duty, and then you’re going to try to add on going to classes, finding a program that will accept your credits and how you’re going to get everything done,” said Beal. “Building this pathway and having it right here on base at NCBC Gulfport that we hope will lead to sailors’ success in the program.”

Registration is being accepted, and classes will begin this fall semester.

The average cost for students is $250 per semester hour for active duty and $250 for undergraduate courses, after special grants and incentives for military spouses and children. Gulf Coast civilians who wish to attend will have an average of $375 per semester hour.

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