Thursday, May 29, 2014

Investing in future engineering leaders is the goal of a new merit-based scholars program, made possible by the family of Craig and Darla Albert.

The Albert Engineering Leadership Scholars Program will emphasize applied learning, campus involvement and professional development.

 "The best thing about the Albert Engineering Leadership Scholars Program, beyond the tremendous opportunity it affords to extraordinary students, is the example Craig and Darla Albert sets for both students and alumni alike,” said Niles Sorensen, vice chancellor for the Division for University Advancement. “During the last 25 years, after graduating from UNC Charlotte, Craig has forged an extraordinary career and I think it is hugely aspirational for our students to look at his career and see what is possible for them.”

Patterned after the University’s prestigious Levine Scholars Program, the Albert Engineering Leadership Scholars Program will recruit top engineering students through a shared process.  

Beginning in fall 2014, two high school seniors— locally and nationwide—will be awarded the Albert Scholarship. Known as Albert Scholars, recipients will secure funding that will cover tuition and fees, housing and meals, books, a laptop computer, summer experiences, participation in the William States Lee College for Engineering Leadership Academy, study abroad opportunities and a professional development stipend.

Through the Albert Scholars Program, the Lee College of Engineering will be able to increase its share of top talent, raise its stature as a top choice for similar high-achieving students and increase student performance and expectations across the college.

 “I want to give to UNC Charlotte because the University was integral in shaping and molding me as a person and in my career, but also because I think the University is in a really good position to help others,” said Craig Albert. “You can see the influence and direction of industry, and that it had an input in the growth plan of the University in terms of how the campus has been built and what programs are offered.

 “That’s one of the advantages of being a young urban research university committed to excellence, is that the University is more nimble in its ability to shape itself to meet the needs of industry, its students and the surrounding region,” he added.

After earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University’s Lee College of Engineering in 1985, Albert joined the manufacturing company, Westinghouse, as a project engineer. He was later appointed manager of business development for Westinghouse’s government business. In 1998, Albert accepted a position with Bechtel, a leading global, engineering, construction and project management company and the largest engineering and construction firm in the United States. He is currently the president of Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure, the company’s government services arms and a director on the Bechtel Group Board. His wife Darla ‘83 is an alumna of UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business.

The Albert Engineering Leadership Scholars Program will focus on applied learning with a high threshold of academic rigor. Participants will develop strategic competencies necessary for leadership, which will be reinforced through specific opportunities for student professional development. University leaders stated the program will be designed to encourage a student’s academic life, community engagement, social skills and critical thinking, all while emphasizing leadership skills interwoven throughout the program.

 Albert, who requested the program focus on fostering leadership skills, said, “I’ve seen how important leadership is in accomplishing great things and I believe the best leaders in our country have good technical backgrounds in addition to good leadership skills. I think engineers, because of their technical background, have the potential to be the best leaders, so I want to teach engineers about leadership so they can leverage more than their own personal capability.”

The program is designed to provide students ample resources that place an emphasis on leadership, soft skills and ethics, traits that aim to make engineering graduates multi-dimensional and well prepared to succeed and exceed in the workplace.

During their studies, Albert Scholars will take part in the Lee College of Engineering Leadership Academy, an extracurricular program that provides a series of experiential learning modules, which participants complete during a two-year period. Leading industry executives, faculty members and alumni facilitate activities and mentor participants to provide them with real-world perspectives on leadership in the engineering workplace. The academy’s four learning modules are “Introduction to Leadership,” “Values and Ethics,” “Strategic Planning for Life” and “Serving the World around You.”

Additionally, Albert Scholars will have access to a professional development stipend of $6,000 after the first year. They can use it for additional learning opportunities, such as international study or a summer research initiative.