After graduating from For Bluefield State College alumnus Mark Gillenwater, a four-year tour of duty in the US Navy provided valuable experience in his career path, and Bluefield State College helped his preparation for that career. Today, Mark is the lead electrical engineer at the Wytheville, VA plant location of Coperion Corporation, an industry leader in extrusion—a process used to create elements used in multiple manufacturing settings.
Graham High School in 2005, Gillenwater enrolled in the computer science program at BSC. Working a pair of part-time jobs and attending college proved to be challenging, and as a result, he joined the Navy in 2008. “I chose the rating of Aviation Electrician,” he recounted. “After ‘A’ school, I made the maiden voyage of the USS George HW Bush to the Persian Gulf, where we were deployed for seven months, where our shop repaired more than 70 F-18 engine generators.”
When his deployment ended, Gillenwater began thinking about life after the military. “I talked to my mom (BSC Executive Secretary for Academic Affairs Darlene Gilley) and Dr. Shannon Bowling (Dean/School of Engineering Technology & Computer Science). Since I had background education in electronics, I decided to major in electrical engineering technology at BSC.
At the College, Dr. Bob Riggins, a recently retired Engineering Technology faculty member, and Dean Bowling played instrumental roles in Gillenwater’s education. “Dr. Riggins helped me see engineering from broader perspective than just the detail side of electrical engineering,” he explained. “Dr. Bowling told me something I will never forget—he said, ‘Mark, you don’t need to know everything; you just need to know how to find the information you are looking for.’”
After graduating from BSC with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, Gillenwater enrolled in the College’s engineering management program and, at the same time, began looking for a position as an electrical engineer in the area. After interviewing with Coperion, he was hired as an electrical engineer working on design of control systems and configuring of components and testing the control system.
In 2017, after he received his second baccalaureate degree (Engineering Management) from BSC, the Bluefield, VA resident accepted Coperion’s offer to lead two electrical engineers and an intern at the Wytheville plant. “The engineering management degree from BSC has helped me see things from a much broader perspective,” he said. “I can now understand projects from the beginning of the sale to the end of the project, and to understand the supply chain aspect as well as the project management aspect.”
“Bluefield State College gave me the foundation to move forward in my career,” he noted.