‘I discovered potential I didn’t know I had’

Gunnar Verace was drawn to the NIU Engineering @ RVC programbecause of the program’s emphasis on internships. With his freshman year under his belt, the Rock Valley College student has already landed his first internship and will spend the summer before his sophomore year working for Bergstrom.
“I’d heard so many stories about not waiting until your senior year to get an internship,” he said. “I wanted to get in as early as I could.”
The way NIU Engineering @ RVC facilitates internships made the process easy, he said, offering students resources like resume reviews and connecting them with local industries.
NIU Engineering @ RVC is an innovative partnership between Northern Illinois University, Rock Valley College and community partners to develop the state line’s engineering work force. Students in the program complete their associate’s degree at RVC, then transfer to NIU to complete their bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Though they are officially NIU students, those junior and senior years are still spent on the RVC campus, taking NIU classes. Local industries and community partners provide support for the program and internships for the students.
Verace said he was nervous coming into the program because he hadn’t taken many engineering-oriented classes in high school. Though his college courses were challenging, he said they were presented in a way that gave him confidence right away.
“The program does a good job of getting you up to speed,” he said. “If anyone is interested but they’re worried that they’re not the engineering type or they don’t have the background knowledge, they should give it a try. Year One introduces you to the engineering world. I’m still a long way off, but I’ve already come so far since August.”
Verace said his course load had “a good balance of fun and heavy courses” and reinforced his decision that mechanical engineering is the right field for him. His favorite courses have taught him to use design software.
“I discovered tools that can help me take something from my mind and actually put it in the real world,” he said. “And I discovered potential I didn’t know I had. All of the things I was scared of – like calculus – turned out to be tough but manageable.”

“I’m really happy I chose this program.”
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