Huntsville Center, AAMU partnership enhances students’ opportunities

By William FarrowMay 15, 2024

Huntsville Center, AAMU partnership enhances students’ opportunities
Alabama A&M University alumni Justin Colar, left, and Curtney Walters, both Huntsville Center engineers, played a role in “refreshing” a partnership agreement with the University’s Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. The collaboration promotes diversity while developing AAMU engineering students’ expertise. (Photo Credit: William Farrow) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Partnerships between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville (Huntsville Center) and Alabama A&M University (AAMU) are reinforcing cooperative efforts to enhance opportunities for minority students attending the public, historically black, land-grant university located on the outskirts of Huntsville in Normal, Alabama.

A “refreshed” partnership agreement with the University’s Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, originally established in 2003, provides a collaboration aimed at promoting diversity while developing AAMU engineering students’ expertise.

Another partnership involving USACE, Huntsville Center and AAMU is currently in the works for a similar partnering effort for the university’s Urban Planning program.

Recent efforts to revitalize and develop the agreements underscore a commitment to enhancing the relationship in a way that aligns with current capabilities and expertise, said Laura Beth Quick, Huntsville Center’s civilian deputy to the commander.

“We recognize that a workforce comprised of diverse, high performing individuals is critical to providing exceptional service to our customers, especially our soldiers and their families,” Quick said.

Although she is serving as Huntsville Center’s deputy commander, Laura Beth Quick was Huntsville Center’s human capital chief for several years.

“This agreement is consistent with the goals outlined by the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering (AMIE) partnering agreement between USACE and AMIE, and the existing agreements between Alabama A&M University and Huntsville Center.”

The involvement of AAMU alumni Curtney Walters and Justin Colar, both Huntsville Center engineers, highlights a direct impact and connection between the university and the USACE.

Colar said the revitalized engineering agreement is supported by key figures Wade Doss, Huntsville Center engineering director, Hank Thomsen, Chief of Cost & Systems Division and Chad House, Chief of Facilities Systems & Sustainment Branch.

The partnership seeks to bolster the engagement through several key initiatives aimed at directly benefiting students and the broader engineering community.

Doss said offering employment opportunities to students is a critical component of the agreement, providing a pathway for upcoming engineers from AAMU to engage with the USACE.

“Additionally, the arrangement is for Huntsville Center to provide visiting lecturers and advisers for senior and graduate design projects enriches the educational experience with practical, industry-relevant insight.”

Doss said the involvement in the engineering advisory board by Colar and Walters further cements the bridge between academia and the engineering industry, fostering an environment where knowledge and experiences are shared for mutual benefit.

“This revitalized agreement supports the objectives of the Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering (AMIE) agreement between USACE and AMIE, aiming to enhance representation and diversity within the engineering sector.” Doss said.

Doss said the value of a diverse workforce enhances USACE and Huntsville Center capabilities.

“This partnership not only seeks to augment the educational and professional opportunities for AAMU students, but also aims toward making substantive impacts on the diversity of the engineering workforce at the Huntsville center,” he said.

Doss said the agreement embodies a strategic approach to development, inclusion, and collaboration that benefits both institutions.

"Diversity fuels innovation, creativity, and efficiency by bringing together different perspectives, experiences, and skills,” he said.

“This blend leads to fresh ideas, better problem-solving, and stronger decisions. It boosts an organization's adaptability and resilience, while also building a culture of respect and understanding that prepares people for success on a global scale."

Dr. Mohamed Ashour, professor and civil engineer coordinator with AAMU’s Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, said the partnership between the AAMU and USACE provides AAMU students with an opportunity to explore the profession with the USACE through internships and summer training.

Ashour said such an exposure to diverse engineering practices gives great momentum to AAMU students to pursue their engineering study with full confidence in future opportunities.

“Most of our students who receive training with USACE seek a career with the USACE after graduation,” he said.

Based on Ashour’s observations, many local students might be hesitant to get internships or even post-graduation, full-time jobs far from home.

“But they can do that when it comes to working for Huntsville Center,” Ashour said.

“The collaborative efforts between the Huntsville Center and AAMU (such us research funds, scholarships, presentations, field trips, online project demonstrations and recruitment sessions) helps our students to see their future and career in a positive and practical fashion, especially for those who have no mentors in their families.”