One of the greatest gifts for professors is seeing their students succeed in their chosen field, using the education they received in the classroom in the pursuit of a rewarding career. SUNY Broome Civil Engineering Technology Professor Joe DeAngelo sees SUNY Broome alumni hard at work whenever he drives through local or state road construction – from bridge inspectors to the engineer-in-charge of the state’s massive Prospect Mountain project.
He stays in touch with many other alumni, too, rattling off their names: Cathy and Shane are working for the City of Binghamton these days, and Abby has moved on to Tompkins County Soil and Conservation District. Cody was the project manager for a recent paving job on campus. Elizabeth is at Matco Electric. And Tom, of course, is still at Prospect Mountain, and often invites current students in the program to visit the worksite – an ideal way to bring classroom topics to life.
“Your biggest reward is working with students and helping them,” he said. “Because I have the experience of working in industry, I have a lot of contacts. It feels good when you’re helping students find a job.”
He’s a SUNY Broome alumnus himself, graduating from the Civil Engineering Technology program in 1974 – the same program he now teaches.
The engineering technologies programs are among the college’s oldest, dating back to its beginnings post-World War II. With a heavy reliance on math, they’re also among the college’s most challenging; of the 119 classmates DeAngelo began with, only 20-something walked the aisle at commencement two years later, he said.
“It was a really good place to learn,” he said. “In some ways, Broome was more difficult than a four-year college. You have five to six courses at a time; at Binghamton University, I took one to two.”
He spent six years finishing his bachelor’s degree, another 10 working on his master’s and a final decade earning his Ph.D., all at Binghamton University. While pursuing higher education, he also enjoyed a 31-year career as a program manager for NYSEG, overseeing the engineering department for the company’s power plants. He worked alongside civil, mechanical and electrical engineers – many of them also SUNY Broome alumni.
After NYSEG auctioned off its power plants in the wake of deregulation, he stayed on to work with its parent company on special projects before retiring in 2009. He then worked for Bearsch Compeau Knudson, a local architectural and engineering firm before deciding to return to his alma mater as an instructor.
“I wanted to give something back to the school. This place was great to me,” he said.
Filling a niche
During a brisk fall day, his students donned bright vests and headed outdoors, surveying equipment in hand, to plot the campus landscape as a class assignment. Dr. DeAngelo stayed behind in a Calice Advanced Manufacturing Center lab to guide students working on calculations.
“Your (map) shape should look like that,” he said, tapping a page in the textbook. “Go over the equations.”
The Calice Center is a complete overhaul of the old Mechanical Building, the home of tech programs since the Dickinson campus first opened in 1956. The new facility has brought the program new classrooms, lab space and state-of-the-art technology – including $100,000 worth of surveying equipment, with GPS devices that cam measure a distance within one centimeter
Students in engineering technologies programs often land job offers even before they earn their degrees. Drive by any state Department of Transportation site, and you will see current students working as transportation construction inspectors, thanks to a summer internship program. Just the other day, Professor DeAngelo drove through the Prospect Mountain site and saw four Hornet grads – doing surveys, inspections and more.
“We do something here that’s unique. We help fill a niche in industry,” he said. “Looking at our infrastructure, the need isn’t going to go away. We need roads and bridges and buildings.”
DeAngelo plans to retire in 2020, but will stay on as an adjunct, continuing to shape the civil engineers and technicians of the future.
“I’ll still be here teaching. I want to give something back,” he said. “Some people give big donations. I give my time.”