New Engineering Services Program helps UMSL students gain real-world experience at Boeing

by | Feb 19, 2024

Bushra Zaidi and Lorne St. Christopher II are two of seven students in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program currently taking part in the program, which launched last year.
Burshra Zaidi and Lorne St. Christopher

Bushra Zaidi and Lorne St. Christopher II are two of seven students in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program currently gaining experience working in a real-world setting at Boeing as part of the Engineering Services Program. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Lorne St. Christopher II was eager to step into a professional work environment and start to see how the lessons he’d been learning in his mechanical engineering courses at the University of Missouri–St. Louis applied to the real world.

St. Christopher, an Opportunity Scholar in the Pierre Laclede Honors College originally from Arkansas, had held other jobs during his time at UMSL, serving stints as both a tutor and a supplemental instructor during his time on campus. When he wasn’t meeting the obligations of school and Air Force ROTC, he also worked part-time in retail.

But being part of the Engineering Services Program at UMSL, which launched last year through a partnership with Boeing, has given him his first chance to experience what could well become his career.

“Being around the actual engineers, dressing the part, having to use your badge to get into different doors or using the laptops, being in that environment, has definitely given me a hands-on experience of what it would be like to be a professional engineer,” St. Christopher said. “I’m thankful for that. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned I really like being in that type of professional environment. It’s felt more real.”

The Engineering Services Program was created to give students in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program exactly that type of experience. The collaborative agreement with Boeing has been funded for three years and allows students to earn a competitive wage for their work while they gain real-world experience.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for students to be exposed to the Boeing work environment and participate in real-world projects,” said Haiyan Cai, a professor of mathematics and statistics and associate dean of the joint engineering program. “Boeing is providing technical training, and the students have a chance to interact with the engineers in a real-world setting. Boeing is a leading engineering company with endless opportunities for these students.”

St. Christopher was among the first students to apply after learning about the Engineering Services Program in an email from Mary McManus, the associate director of advising and student services with the joint engineering program. He was accepted and began working in the program in March 2023. He has worked an average of about 20 hours per week ever since.

There are currently seven UMSL students involved in the program. St. Christopher and the others have been tasked with updating documents for the aerospace company, but they also get to talk to and ask questions of the engineers creating those projects.

Boeing is one of the nation’s leading defense contractors, so some of the projects the students have been involved with are classified.

“I’m working on stuff that people my age don’t normally get to see,” St. Christopher said.

Like St. Christopher, Bushra Zaidi is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering and is a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College. The St. Charles, Missouri, resident already had internship experience with Murphy Company, a mechanical contracting and engineering company specializing in HVAC systems that’s based in Olivette, Missouri. But she was looking for another opportunity to learn and enhance her resume last July when she was accepted into the Engineering Services Program.

“It’s been really amazing,” Zaidi said. “The engineers we work with are so nice, and they talk to us about everything – not just stuff that’s related to what we’re doing. They give us general career advice, like how to get along with people, what your resume should look like.

“They also tell us if there are openings at Boeing, if we should apply, and they put us at the top of the list for interviews and stuff like that. Getting these connections is really amazing.”

Zaidi said one UMSL student who joined the program last year has since landed a full-time position with the company.

The joint engineering program – which will mark its 30th anniversary with a celebration on March 7 – was designed to allow students to gain experience before they hit the job market. The students pay UMSL tuition and spend their first two years taking pre-engineering and general education courses at the university before transitioning to the WashU campus to complete their upper-level engineering courses.

Those courses are all held in the afternoons and evenings, allowing students the flexibility to take advantage of internships and co-op positions. Staff members such as McManus are constantly alerting UMSL engineering students to opportunities available at a number of businesses throughout the region.

Having those experiences gives students an edge when they hit the job market after graduation.

St. Christopher is committed to spending four years on active duty with the Air Force after completing his degree this spring, and he is unsure whether he will want to extend his military career beyond that.

“I just want to stay flexible,” he said. “But I think it’s good to have this connection with Boeing before I go into the military, so when I get out, I could be like, ‘Oh, I was with you all when I was a student.’”

Zaidi has recently started looking for employment opportunities ahead of her expected graduation in August, and she believes her experience with Boeing will be an asset, whether she’s applying at Boeing or other companies.

She encourages other students to take advantage of the Engineering Services Program.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Zaidi said. “If you want internship hours or anything like that, this is a really good way to get them.”

This year marks 30 years of the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Washington University in St. Louis working together to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s engineers, shaping some of the city’s brightest minds into innovators for the future. Please join alumni and friends of the program on March 7 to celebrate the power of engineering and alumni success. Learn more about this exciting event at

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik