Tassel-turning season begins
Colorado Mesa University graduated its first spring class under its new name Saturday, as well as its first batch of students to complete the CMU-University of Colorado mechanical engineering partnership program.
The nine students who graduated from the partnership program are all from Mesa County and attended Colorado Mesa for all four years of college but will graduate with a degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. They took general education and some engineering classes from Colorado Mesa professors during their freshman and sophomore years, then took two years of higher-level engineering courses taught by CU professors who live in Grand Junction.
Five of the graduates walked at both the CU engineering commencement ceremony Thursday evening in Boulder, then drove back to Grand Junction for the Colorado Mesa ceremony Saturday morning. Partnership graduate Pace Bates, 22, said the ceremony in Boulder was only the second time he had been on the CU campus for anything but a soccer game. Still, the Grand Junction High School graduate was glad to have the opportunity to celebrate with graduates from both universities and he’s glad his diploma is from CU.
“I think employers will definitely respond more. It’s a program that’s been around a long time and earned itself a name,” Bates said.
Classmate Aaron Clymer, 30, said he too believes the CU name carries weight because the Boulder school’s engineering program has had more time to build a reputation than the partnership’s budding program. He said “he couldn’t pass up” a CU degree but, as a Central High School graduate, also wanted to stay in Grand Junction and enjoy less-expensive tuition. Partnership students pay Colorado Mesa tuition for their first two years of school and switch to University of Colorado tuition for the last two years.
Mechanical engineering graduate Derek West, 22, said his tuition tripled when he started his junior year in the partnership, but was worth it. He got to know his professors in small classes and got to stay in Grand Junction near family and friends and stay involved at his alma mater, Life Academy.
While West and Bates will spend their summers searching for jobs, some mechanical engineering partnership graduates already have found employers. Clymer has been offered a job at GPD Global, where he has been an intern since February. Other graduates have taken jobs with Lewis Engineering and Capco. Clymer said he hopes the partnership helps fill a niche in Grand Junction’s job market.
“It’s nice we’re starting something the Grand Valley really needs and there’s not much supply,” he said.
Colorado Mesa and Western Colorado Community College on Saturday graduated 1,342 students who earned 1,416 degrees.