University of Arizona Fundamentals of Engineering Course Receives UPCEA West Region’s 2022 Outstanding Non-Credit Program Award

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University of Arizona Fundamentals of Engineering Course Receives UPCEA West Region’s 2022 Outstanding Non-Credit Program Award

Office of Continuing & Professional Education
October 13, 2022

The University of Arizona Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam Preparation course is this year's recipient of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) West Region Outstanding Non-Credit Program Award.

UPCEA, the leader in professional, continuing and online education, annually recognizes outstanding achievement by individuals and institutions across its regional member network.

The FE Exam Prep course, which provides a comprehensive review of exam topics, as well as practice exam-taking and problem-solving strategies, stood out based on the audiences the program serves and the dedication of the instructional team in preparing students to pass the  exam considered the first step in becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE).

Bill O'Brien is the subject matter expert and instructor for the course. O'Brien is also the president and principal engineer of NextGen Engineering, a company with a  two-fold mission: planning and implementing sustainable engineering projects and training the next generation of water resource professionals. Facilitating the FE Exam Prep course is  key to NextGen's educational mission.

As O'Brien says:

"At NextGen Engineering, we strive to provide quality water resource and civil engineering services while engaging with the community through education and pro bono work…I'm excited about this award because it affirms our mission to train and educate the next generation of engineers."

The course is delivered in collaboration with the University of Arizona Office of Continuing and Professional Education. Rebecca Cook, Senior Director of Continuing and Professional Education says that when NextGen first reached out about the possibility of working together to offer the program, she appreciated the need for exam preparation but had no idea of the reach it would have.

"Bill talked about the refugee population here in Tucson, many of whom had been professionals in their home countries but lacked the English-speaking skills and U.S. licenses and credentials to continue their careers here," she says. "Bill was determined to give these international engineers a chance to be recertified and rejoin their professional community while, at the same time, help other emerging engineers (many of whom were UArizona students on the brink of graduating) get started on their chosen career path."

"We realized the FE Exam Prep course was going to be a win-win opportunity for everyone," Cook says, "We were definitely on board."

Everyone is Welcome

As a longtime volunteer in the Tucson refugee-serving community, O'Brien  knew there were experienced engineering professionals unable to work as engineers after immigrating to the U.S., and he wanted to help:

"It just breaks my heart sometimes – all the brains of a good engineer and they're pushing carts at Walmart. All that technical knowledge and experience is just being lost," he says.

O'Brien collaborated with the Refugee Resource Center to launch the FE Exam Prep course in 2016. The initial three FE Exam Prep classes were held at the Refugee Resource Center, and were co-written by Randiesia Fletcher, the Co-Founder of the Refugee Resource Center.

Although the course was originally designed to serve the refugee community, O'Brien soon discovered that current University of Arizona students and working engineering professionals were also interested in FE Exam Prep. O'Brien began collaborating with the University of Arizona office of Continuing & Professional Education to offer FE Exam Prep to the wider community in 2019.

About the Fundamentals of Engineering Course

The FE Exam is administered by The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

The exam is challenging, covering topics as wide-ranging as chemistry, mathematics, electromagnetism, material science, fluid mechanics, economics, professional ethics, and more. According to the most recent data available from NCEES, less than 2/3 of candidates who take the Civil or Other Disciplines FE Exam actually pass the exam.

To prepare participants for FE Exam success, FE Exam Prep provides a comprehensive review of every topic on the FE Civil Engineering and Other Disciplines exams. Through online video lectures, homework problem sets, and practice exams, course participants receive a thorough refresher. They also learn practical exam-taking and problem-solving strategies to increase their likelihood of passing the exam. Participants can also choose to attend optional weekly live instructor-led study sessions, either in-person in Tucson or live online via Zoom.

The 15-week FE Exam Prep course is offered twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters. The next course starts January 11, 2023. A 50% registration discount is available for:

  • University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University students and alumni
  • Military-connected learners
  • Participants referred by refugee-serving community organizations

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