'Rigorous' Abington engineering program teaches skills that lead to jobs

Penn State Abington engineering graduate Clifford Dennis

Clifford Dennis served his required engineering internship at a global technology solutions corporation, which hired him to work part time during his final year at Penn State Abington and then quickly offered him a full-time position after graduating in May 2023.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington engineering students find the combination of technical knowledge and soft skills they master through the program quickly leads to employment after graduation. Clifford Dennis, for example, finished the program in May 2023 and began working as a mechanical engineer the following month.  

According to Dennis, there are three aspects of the engineering with the multidisciplinary engineering design option degree program that supported his success: rigorous academics, the required capstone course and summer internship, and relationships with faculty. 

“The foundational classes take a deep dive into how things move and work together, and you need to master the materials and engineering design fundamentals courses, too,” he said. 

The required capstone course exposes the aspiring engineers to real-world problems. Professional engineers are assigned as capstone mentors to the student teams who create solutions to challenges posed by sponsoring companies.  

“My team’s project used artificial intelligence to create a system that would automate a manual process so the company’s techs could do more important work. The most important lesson I learned from the capstone was project management. You need to have a good system for deadlines and keep track of what your teammates are working on and the status of various systems,” Dennis said. 

Dennis, a first-generation college student, interned at JBT Corp., a global technology solutions company. JBT hired Dennis on a part-time basis while he completed his final year of the engineering program, and he then transitioned to a full-time role in June. 

“Dr. [Sally Sue] Richmond, who is one of my mentors, said your internship turns you into an adult. She’s right — it's an incredible experience having 9-to-5 professional job,” he said. 

Dennis applauds the engineering faculty for their support throughout the program and the internship and hiring process. 

"Faculty teach you, talk to you, support you, and offer advice as you keep up with deadlines and work to find the right internship and first job,” he said. 

Mukul Talaty, assistant professor of engineering and another of Dennis’s mentors, credits him for taking full advantage of all the Abington engineering program offers. 

“We provide students with a solid foundation in critical thinking, a structure for lots of practice in real-life problem-solving, and a hands-on introduction to the design process as well as less tangible things like how to work effectively in teams, how to self-assess and overcome deficits, time management, and knowing when to ask for help versus when to try to figure things out on your own,” he said. 

Talaty said Dennis is a great example of how dedication and perseverance lead to success.  

“Clifford grew by working hard, applying himself, sticking with it when things didn't go as he expected, and pushing himself to be better. He always had a great attitude, and Clifford wasn't afraid to reach out for help when he needed it,” he said. 

“All of the engineering faculty, consider students to be like family — we are always there if they need us,” Talaty said. 

Early on, Dennis settled on the same career choice as his dad, who is an engineer in India. Joining the robotics team at Philadelphia’s Central High School solidified his interest in STEM, and Abington was the only university he applied to for his bachelor's degree. 

“Abington is close to home, and I received a full scholarship. It was a great experience, and it’s a smaller campus so you can get more involved and get to know faculty,” he said. 

The Penn State Abington engineering program is accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). The first two years focus on foundational engineering coursework, which can be completed at Abington or Penn State Brandywine. The next two years of advanced engineering coursework are completed at the modern, multimillion-dollar engineering facility at Penn State Great Valley. 

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education to its diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers bachelor’s degrees in 25 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.