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Student earns NCC transfer degrees, gains experience on path to mechanical engineering

Owen Sondergard looks forward to graduating next year from NC State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

“The first thing I remember wanting to do for a career was chemistry, which had somehow evolved into chemical engineering by the time I reached high school,” Owen said. “Then I took my first chemistry class and I thought maybe that’s not what I want to do. But I was still interested in engineering.”

Owen set his sights on attending NC State University and landing a career in engineering. He knew attending the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School was one way to get there.

Students attending the Early College High School located on the Nash Community College campus take a combination of high school and college courses. Upon successful completion, they graduate in five years with a high school diploma and either an Associate Degree or two years of college credit transferable to a four-year institution.

“I enrolled in the Early College because I thought it would be a great way to jumpstart my academic career,” he said. “NCC helped me get to where I am now by being able to take college classes that would transfer to a four-year university.”

At Nash, he pursued associate degrees in Arts and Science as he prepared for transfer. Owen recalls participating in Strategic Twin Counties Education Partnership’s “Lunch with an Engineer” as an NCC student. He met local engineers and learned more about the variety of local opportunities in the field of engineering. More than he ever imagined, he said.

Owen graduated from Nash Community College in 2019 with both degrees, with honors. “I would highly recommend NCC,” he said. “Getting to start on Calculus and Physics courses at Nash gave me an opportunity to really understand the material in a way that was challenging but not overbearing. Once I got to State I felt more prepared to take on their more challenging higher-level courses thanks to the great start I had at Nash.”

Owen landed an internship last summer with LS Cable & System in Tarboro, one of the same companies he was introduced to at the “Lunch with an Engineer” event. “I not only enjoyed being able to get hands-on experience in a professional working environment, but I also enjoyed the people I worked for and all they did to ensure that I got valuable experience out of my internship,” he said. “Understanding the fundamentals is the best thing you can do. Everything you learn in an internship is growing off what you already know.”

The 21-year-old’s advice to high school and college students is to seek opportunities to gain experience in their field of interest while still in school. “Whether it is through a job or internship, get experience,” he says. Experience can allow a student to connect classroom learning to the real world, let a student see if they really do enjoy the field their studying, and build their resume.

On track to graduate from the university in May 2023, Owen wants to complete at least one more internship before he leaves NCSU so he will have explored other specializations within mechanical engineering. Upon graduation, he plans to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam as the final step in the process of becoming a professional licensed engineer (PE).

In addition to the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science transfer degrees, NCC also offers an Associate in Engineering degree where students gain a solid foundation in quantitative reasoning and problem-solving. Nash Community College Engineering students complete a minimum of 60 semester hours of courses that are accepted at Engineering programs at East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T, UNC-Charlotte and Western Carolina University. Completing the first two years at NCC could save students more than $30,000 when compared to attending all four years at a university. To date, four NCC Engineering grads have been accepted into the Goodnight Scholars Program at NCSU.

“I think Nash is a great place to not only get a great education and certification in many areas but also for its value in being a path to a four-year university,” Owen said.

For more information or to enroll at NCC, call (252) 443–4011 or visit to complete an interest form. Summer and fall semester registration begins March 28, 2022.