Joint Engineering Program marks 30 years of training quality engineers for the St. Louis workforce

by | Mar 11, 2024

Approximately 1,400 alumni have earned degrees in either in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering through the program since its founding.
Jody O'Sullivan speaks to attendees of the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program's 30th anniversary celebration

Dean Jody O’Sullivan speaks to attendees of the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program’s 30th anniversary celebration last Thursday in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater. (Photo by Joe Cavato)

More than 100 people turned out at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis Thursday evening to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program.

2016 JEP graduate Eric'el Johnson speaking at the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program's 30th anniversary celebration

Eric’el Johnson, a 2016 graduate, talks about the impact the joint engineering program made on her during the program’s 30th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Joe Cavato)

Jody O’Sullivan, the dean of the program, welcomed those in attendance to the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater for the event.

“Thirty years is a long time,” he said. “A traditional symbol of a 30th anniversary is the pearl. Pearls take a long time to grow and perfect. Pearls represent honesty and wisdom. The joint engineering program has been growing for 30 years. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but we strive for excellence and to convey wisdom to all of our students.”

The program has graduated approximately 1,400 alumni in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, with most of them going into engineering roles across the St. Louis region. Boeing and Ameren have been the two biggest employers of joint engineering program graduates.

Eric’el Johnson is one of those alumni, and the 2016 graduate briefly shared her story at Thursday’s event.

Semir Vajzovic speaking at JEP 30th anniversary celebration

Semir Vajzovic, a 2014 graduate, has played an active role in the UMSL Joint Engineering Program Alumni Network since earning his degree.

“I’m excited to be here sharing my journey through the joint engineering program and celebrating its 30th anniversary with you,” said Johnson, who is currently a manager in FA-18 mission systems at Boeing. “Being that I just turned 30, I would like to think that this program was made specifically for me, but many others feel the same way. As the oldest of three in a working-class family. I understood the financial burden going to college would put on my mom, so I made a promise to her that she would not have to pay. With the help of the joint engineering program and the Opportunity Scholars Program, I fulfilled my promise to my mom, and I became the first STEM major let alone engineer in my family.”

She noted that her sisters followed her to UMSL after seeing her success.

Another joint engineering alum is Semir Vajzovic, a 2014 UMSL graduate now serving as the director of asset, investment and risk management at Ameren. In addition to his job responsibilities, Vajzovic also holds a leadership role in the UMSL Joint Engineering Alumni Network, and he talked about the significance of his involvement during Thursday’s celebration.

“After attending a number of events with the JEP program, I firmly believe that there was one question that changed the trajectory of my UMSL life, and that question was ‘How can I help?’” Vajzovic said. “My question was intended as, ‘Can I help move the chairs? Can I help clean up the desks or clean up the room when the event was over?’ But the answer I got was very different. The answer I got was to get involved in the alumni community, and I did. It was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.”

Dwayne Perry discusses his engineering design project at the JEP's 30th anniversary celebration

UMSL senior Dwayne Perry discusses his senior design project with attendees of the joint engineering program’s 30th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Steve Walentik)

He explained: “Getting and staying involved brought a new perspective, brought me new connections, friendships and opportunities to learn. It introduced me to mentors and idols. I’ve learned many more ways to give back, whether they’re helping organize events, helping connect people, becoming a mentor myself or being engaged in a different way, or just being there to listen. Sometimes that’s all you need to do.”

He encouraged other alumni and current students in the room to stay connected and give back to the program that has helped launch so many careers these last three decades.

Alumni had a chance to interact with some of those current students, who were showing off work from their senior design projects in poster presentations on display in the Lee Theater both before and after the evening’s speakers.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik