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As he spent Fridays in an Oak Ridge classroom for nearly two years, Eric White knew an industrial engineering master’s degree would help him sharpen his professional skills while strengthening his resume and helping him network with other Y-12 National Security Complex employees. But he never expected the master’s degree to pay off so quickly.

Timing of the UT and Y‑12 partnership was everything for Chad Watson, who discusses work with an intern. He has an engineering master’s degree from UT.

White was among the first group of Y-12 employees who graduated from the UT’s two-year industrial engineering master’s program with a concentration in engineering management in August 2013, and he’s among a handful of graduates who have found quick success as a result of the program.

After working in Program Planning and Controls, White became Y-12’s estimating manager last year, moving into a managerial role for the first time in his career.

The results of the program “definitely exceeded what I expected,” White said.

“My real expectation was to have the degree and have it on the resume and hope for better opportunities. I didn’t think I’d be able to get into management right away.”

The program has had a symbiotic effect on employees and the mission at Y-12, helping employees advance in their careers while strengthening the site’s professional ranks.

“At Consolidated Nuclear Security (which manages Y-12), investment in our people is a key strategic goal moving forward. It helps us ensure mission success at both Y-12 and Pantex, stimulates career growth for our workforce, and in turn builds an enduring and energized talent pool,” CNS Vice President for Mission Engineering Mike Beck said. “This program is already paying big dividends for our employees and our sites, and we are exploring similar relationships in Texas.”

For the College of Engineering, the chance to team up with Y-12 in such a way was a golden opportunity and a model of what is possible through such partnerships.

“This is a perfect example of how our college and Y-12 can work together for one another’s betterment,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the College of Engineering. “The success of this program is a testament to the strength of our relationship and is mutually beneficial to both partners. Their workers can get the continued education that we can provide, and our college gets exposure to some of the brightest minds in the area.”

In all, thirty employees have graduated from the program, and several have stories similar to White’s.

Jason McCall was among the program’s first group of graduates. Since graduating he became the nuclear criticality safety lead engineer for Building 9720-5, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, and the Special Nuclear Materials Vehicle. Last year, he also was named the education chair of the American Nuclear Society’s Nuclear Criticality Safety Division (NCSD).

In addition to continuing his role as education chair, McCall is now serving as an executive committee member in the NCSD after winning a national election.

“I do not think certain opportunities would have presented themselves in my professional career if it had not been for the UT/Y-12 partnership master’s program,” McCall said. “I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to go through such a great program. Every day I use the tools learned in the master’s program.”

Continue reading the story at Y-12’s website.


Todd Jacobson (865-574-9077,