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Thursday, December 1, 2022

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SDSU's T2E program’s goal is to ease the transition to civilian learning for student veterans like Sammy Sanchez. (SDSU) SDSU's T2E program’s goal is to ease the transition to civilian learning for student veterans like Sammy Sanchez. (SDSU)
 


Troops to Engineers

T2E is offered exclusively at SDSU to student veterans in undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.
By Melinda Sevilla and Audrey Chuakay
 

Jesus “Sammy” Samaniego Sanchez worked as an aircraft support technician during his five years as a Marine.

 

The work encouraged him to pursue his current studies in electrical engineering at San Diego State University. 

 

“On the daily, I was troubleshooting electrical pieces of equipment on aircraft, running up and down the flight line,” said Sanchez. “I felt a rush of accomplishment, and pride in my work. I decided, ‘Hey, what’s better than fixing something? Making it. So here I am”.

 

He is supported by an SDSU program specifically designed for nontraditional students like him. 

 

An SDSU-Exclusive Program 

 

Established in 2011 with support from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Booz Allen Hamilton, Troops to Engineers (T2E) is a program offered exclusively at SDSU to student veterans in undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

 

T2E provides specialized career assistance for student veterans like Sanchez seeking to improve their professional development skills, obtain paid internships, and secure jobs in engineering. That success is accomplished through the intentional space and opportunity created for student veterans to hone their skills acquired while in the military and translate them through real-world experiences outside the military. 

 

“The assistance that T2E provides to our student veteran engineers is vital to their success in both their journey at SDSU and beyond”, said Elisa East, an Army military police veteran and interim director of SDSU’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center Military and Veterans Program. 

 

Active duty members and veterans face challenges and go through stress from career changes that differ from individuals who haven’t served. Even though the service-to-student transition is welcoming, there are obstacles when departing from their branch of service. The T2E program’s goal is to ease the transition to civilian student learning. 

 

Sanchez said his transition to SDSU “definitely required some adjustment” to the change in structure and daily schedules. Thanks to networking opportunities available to him through T2E and the Veterans Center, Sanchez was able to meet other engineers to connect with.

 

 

Emerging Engineer Identities

 

Another crucial component of the program is the Emerging Engineer Identities class, which all T2E members take. It’s a crash course on program offerings in support of their career development, and ultimately prepares new and transfer students with the tools necessary to acquire summer internships.

 

“We help students understand the importance of networking, something they've never really had to worry about as a service member,” said Josh Imes, T2E Program Coordinator and Army veteran who teaches the course. 

 

Over the past 11 years, T2E has had a 100% success rate in helping actively participating students acquire employment in their engineering field prior to graduation. “We have an alumni group of over 550 professionals, many of whom still reach out to stay connected and give back to the program that helped jump-start their careers,” said Imes. 

 

Sanchez, for instance, has worked as an electrical engineering intern at Northrop Grumman’s Manhattan Beach office for the last two summers. He also worked as T2E work-study assistant, completing administrative tasks and helping fellow veterans with courses he struggled with in the past. 

 

 

 

Post-Graduate Success

 

Looking forward to continuing the success of the program, Imes said T2E continues to fine-tune programming to offer the most relevant and effective support to engineering student veterans. 

 

“In the year I've been here, this program has grown and has reached more students than it ever has. We continue to provide opportunities for our students to explore, grow, and ultimately find that career-starting opportunity that will set them up for long-term success," he said.

 

For other aspiring student engineers like him, Sanchez advises coming to university with an open mind and expecting things to be different. 

 

As he looks forward to his graduation in spring 2023, Sanchez’s post-grad dream job scenario is to stay in San Diego and become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) with an electrical engineering focus on Antenna Design and Theory. He feels confident in making a difference wherever he lands.

 

“No matter what, employers can know that when they hire any of us veterans with a military background, we’ll hit the ground running,” said Sanchez.