MTSU engineering management grad students benefit ...

MTSU engineering management grad students benefit from $447K US Dept. of Education grant

 A $447,000 U.S. Department of Education grant is helping MTSU’s Master of Science in Professional Science program meet the national need to deliver outstanding engineering management graduates into the workforce.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, or GAANN, program is supporting MTSU engineering management students with the grant, said Saeed Foroudastan, MTSU’s MSPS director and associate dean in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

The first group of MTSU/U.S. Department of Education GAANN recipients include Juan Garcia Mendez, left, Lucas Hamilton, Aubrie Huddleston, Parisa Nasrzadeh, Chris Lawrence and Derek Morris. (Submitted photo)

The first group of MTSU/U.S. Department of Education GAANN recipients include Juan Garcia Mendez, left, Lucas Hamilton, Aubrie Huddleston, Parisa Nasrzadeh, Chris Lawrence and Derek Morris. (Submitted photo)

In addition to engineering management, MSPS degree fields include actuarial sciences, biostatistics, biotechnology, fermentation science, geosciences and health care informatics. The two-year program combines business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The GAANN program provides fellowships to assist graduate students with excellent academic records, who demonstrate a financial need and plan to pursue the highest degree in the field designated as an area of national need.

The GAANN program at MTSU, which began in January, will be for multiple years. The spring semester was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with classes held remotely.

The first six GAANN students include Juan Garcia Mendez of Murfreesboro and originally from La Piedad Michoacán, Mexico; Lucas Hamilton of Lenoir City, Tennessee; Aubrie Huddleston of Huntsville, Alabama; Parisa Nasrzadeh of Murfreesboro and formerly from Tehran, Iran; Christian Lawrence of Culleoka, Tennessee; and Derek Morris of Leesburg, Georgia.

Brianna Bauman of Murfreesboro will be joining the program this summer.

“Engineering management was upgraded to meet the needs of industry five years ago,” Foroudastan said. “All of our graduates have jobs. There’s a huge demand (for graduates with engineering management degrees).”

Dr. Saeed Foroudastan

Dr. Saeed Foroudastan

“The beauty of engineering management is that it is combined with business core courses, making them much better students,” Foroudastan added. “Since our students do internships, this gives them an advantage.”

On average, more than 75 percent of program students land a job with the place where they interned, he said.

Students awarded GAANN Fellowships will receive full tuition and a stipend of $2,000 or more based on financial need, mentoring, teaching opportunities, research training and involvement in the new MSPS Club and Experimental Vehicles program.

MSPS is taking applications for future fellow awards. For more information and to apply, visit

Lawrence’s drive to the finish line

Christian “Chris” Lawrence, 24, will be the first GAANN student to graduate — with a 4.0 GPA Saturday, May 9, during the university’s virtual commencement.

Chris Lawrence

Chris Lawrence

Lawrence commuted 128 miles round-trip (a 90-minute drive) from Culleoka, in Maury County, all six years of attending MTSU.

Lawrence is a former biology major, earning her undergraduate degree in 2018. She received a Gilman Scholarship to study in Japan (her minor is Japanese) and said she “took a weird leap” into the engineering management graduate program.

As a junior, Lawrence realized she “was unhappy” and found “no joy” in biology.

Lawrence found joy in being co-coordinator of the Japanese department’s extra credit activity with friend Rebecca Clippard. Lawrence later learned about engineering management, where she could use her Japanese knowledge.

“The (GAANN) fellowship really encourages getting involved with campus activities and opportunities,” said Lawrence, who liked the program’s concept of increasing the number of women in engineering.

Her internship has been with Fuel Total Systems LLC, a start-up company in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, supplying fuel tanks to Toyota.

Hamilton tackles another new venture

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Former Blue Raider football player Lucas Hamilton, 25, has bachelor’s degrees from MTSU in liberal studies (2017), mathematics (’18) and mechatronics engineering (’19) before committing to graduate school and being accepted as a GAANN student.

“Having the GAANN allows me to focus on my education,” said Hamilton, who has been involved in research with mentor and assistant professor Emmanuel Rowe, “learning what he does, helping run labs and grading papers.” Hamilton will be president of the MSPS Club starting in July.

For Hamilton, all of the different degrees — plus honing in on engineering management — have been “really exciting. It has not gotten boring. The new information and things I’m learning have been great.”

His business classes have been in managerial communications and productivity studies and lean systems — how to improve productivity in a factory.

“Doing this kept me more engaged, from all the information I’m having to bring in,” said Hamilton, a former tight end, wide receiver and offensive lineman. He and MTSU School of Nursing alumna Cheyenne Richardson will be married Saturday, May 18, in Maryville, Tennessee.

—Randy Weiler (