Speakers Urge Graduates to “Get Involved” at the Annual Kaskaskia College Pre-Engineering Banquet

Kaskaskia College held its annual Pre-Engineering Banquet on Wednesday, May 2.  A number of speakers, including Kaskaskia College administrators, former KC graduates and faculty of the SIU Edwardsville School of Engineering, addressed this year’s cohort of graduating students.

Eric Hofelich, Pre-Engineering Coordinator, Professor, and Mathematics Department Chair, acted as the master of ceremonies for the event.  Professor Hofelich has been touted as being largely responsible for the success of the resurgence of the Pre-Engineering program over the last three years.

Two speakers from SIU Edwardsville, Dr. Hasan Savim, Dean of the School of Engineering, and Dr. Cem Karacal, Associate Dean, Professor and PhD Program Coordinator for the School of Engineering, praised Kaskaskia College for the work that KC faculty does in preparing its pre-engineering students for transfer to SIUE, and for the continuing success of the two schools’ 2+2 Articulation Agreement, in which students enrolled in KC’s Pre-engineering program meld seamlessly and successfully into junior level classes at the university.  KC and SIUE signed an extension of the 2+2 agreement at the banquet.

Drs. Savim and Karacal, addressing the students, also emphasized the need for engineering students to get involved in projects, which, they said, helps to build leadership qualities and enhances their ability to tackle real-world engineering problems.  The most successful transfer students have project experience which empowers them to take on more team memberships and leadership roles at the university level.  One shining example of this is Derek Hoerchler, a KC grad who, upon transferring to SIUE, was able to lead the school’s Formula 1 race car team and was named the Outstanding Senior in Mechanical Engineering recently.

Derek Hoerchler was also a featured speaker at the banquet, where he, too, praised the KC faculty and the 2+2 agreement, saying that he felt better prepared for junior level classes at SIUE than even those students who attended the university as freshmen and sophomores.  He also advised the KC graduates to become involved in teams and projects, saying that leading a team is a good way to be noticed and to add the extra element of leadership experience to a resume.  Derek attended along with his brother Steve, also a standout, soon-to-be graduate of the SIUE School of Engineering, and other classmates including Tiffany Geppert, and Ryan Quick, all of whom were active in the 2+2 program and were members of engineering clubs and teams while attending SIUE.

Another KC grad, Paul Schumaker, also spoke.  Paul is graduating from the University of Illinois this spring with his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering.  Paul is the recipient of the Jimmy H. Clark Dairy Achievement Award and the President of the chapter of the American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers and is secretary of the Illini Dairy Club.  Paul echoed the idea that a high level of involvement leads to high achievement, and was unstinting in his praise of the KC pre-engineering program.  He believes that his time at KC gave him an edge over other junior level students at the University of Illinois.

Michael Elliot, soon-to-be graduate of KC and President of the Kaskaskia Engineering Association, KC’s Engineering Club, spoke of the club’s involvement with the Centralia Haunted House, and the full-sized “Haunted Outhouse” that was on display in the banquet hall.  At the push of a button, the outhouse rocks and sways on it base before the door flings open and a spritz of cherry-scented water shoots out. The project called upon the club members differing skills and interests, including mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering skills.  Elliot plans to have the “Haunted Outhouse” on display at this year’s Centralia Haunted House.

The featured speaker of the evening was Mr. Gary Hahn, the Structural Department Head at Centralia based Rhutasel and Associates, which, according to its website, is “an association of professionals each bringing a unique specialty to the organization to create a multi-disciplinary consulting civil and structural engineering, and land surveying professional services firm.”  Mr.Hahn is also a 1979 graduate of the Kaskaskia College pre-engineering program.

Mr. Hahn told the attendees of his experiences as a civil engineer, and advised the new graduates to be willing to try things outside of their comfort level as engineers.  “Opportunities open up for you as you learn to open up to them,” he said.

He also confirmed that, as an employer who hires young engineers, having team experience and leadership qualities can set one candidate apart from others with equal qualifications.

Although Mr. Hahn’s teachers at KC are long retired, he remembered how the pre-engineering program at KC helped to give him the confidence that he could tackle the coursework at the university level, and said that he was pleased to see that the highest of standards are being maintained by the current KC faculty and their cohorts of students.

For more information on the Kaskaskia College Pre-Engineering Program, please contact Professor Eric Hofelich at 618-545-3359 or​

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