Michael Whelan sees the impact of engineers in nearly everything we see, touch and consume.
“Engineers influence people’s lives from the moment we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night,” he said.
It’s no wonder then that Whelan, president of the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Florida Engineering Society, is concerned about the lack of engineers being produced by the United States.
According to recent news reports, the chronic shortage of engineering students threatens America’s role as the world’s leading innovator and continues to impede our nation’s fragile economic recovery.
Whelan and his chapter of about 280 members are actively involved in solving this challenge. In addition to sponsoring events such as MathCounts, the Chapter recently established an endowment to generate scholarships for engineering students at UNF.
The scholarship program in itself is not new. The chapter has offered multiple scholarships for many years. The new aspect is an endowment that will guarantee an annual scholarship in perpetuity.
“We wanted a way to guarantee the availability of a scholarship that is not dependent on the resources of the chapter at a particular time,” he said.
The scholarship will be available to juniors and seniors who have been accepted into the UNF School of Engineering with a preference for those who are active members of the UNF student chapter of the Florida Engineering Society. As many as 50 UNF students are involved in the student chapter, which works hand-in-hand with the professional chapter.
Becoming a professional engineer in Florida requires a five-year internship after college, Whelan said. A scholarship will not only help during college but will also help to minimize loan repayments during that internship period.
Northeast Florida has a long history of promoting engineering. The Florida Engineering Society, with more than 3,000 members, was established in Jacksonville in 1916. During the intervening years, engineering has changed drastically with one constant — the need for qualified engineers.
Technological innovation depends on engineers tackling the challenges of the day and providing economical solutions. In Whelan’s view, scholarships are one way to help Northeast Florida meet this critical need.