Returning to school after a career in the military had initial challenges and setbacks for Allen Simmons, but with a little help from his friends, including professors, fellow students and campus support programs, he found his personal keys to success and completed one of the greatest achievements of his life, graduating in December 2020 with his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology.
Simmons first started at UNC Charlotte in 2016, majoring in Electrical Engineering. “I had been an electrician in the Marine Corps,” he said, “running wires to tents and working with generators and such. I thought electrical engineering would be similar to that. It was not.”
With his studying skills rusty, Simmons struggled in courses like calculus and physics. “I actually dropped out for a while, thinking I was a failure,” he said. “I took some time off, and then with the help of the Rebound program came back majoring in Electrical Engineering Technology.”
The 49er Rebound program assist students who are experiencing academic difficulty at UNC Charlotte. Freshmen and transfers from all colleges participate in 49er Rebound.
“The Rebound program and the College of Engineering MAPS program taught me tools such as how to plan my studies and my academic career, and how to use tutors,” Simmons said. “They were extremely helpful for me.”
The Engineering Technology program provided Simmons with a collaborative community where he could thrive. “I was able to build a community with other students and student teaching assistants,” he said. “My fellow students were great. We were all in this together, and we studied in groups and worked through our homework problems together. The faculty also offered a lot of their time to work with me one-on-one. Learning to make use of the professors’ office hours was a real pivot point for me.”
Simmons also benefitted from skills he learned while participating in two internships. The practical experience he gained from the real-world experiences proved valuable when he applied them to his student projects.
Through his involvement with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Simmons was able to meet a vice president of IBM at one of the group’s meeting. “In talking with him, I learned about a job they had open that required good communications skills, which definitely fit with my gift for gab. Now I am a software client support representative for IBM. The coding skills I learned working on projects in school have proven very valuable in my new job.”
Simmons considers his academic career to be a testament to the people and excellent student support programs at UNC Charlotte. “I went from academic probation to working at IBM,” he said. “I would have never guessed this would be my end game. I know I wouldn’t have graduated without the help of UNC Charlotte’s tutoring programs and the help of my professors. When I speak to students now, I tell them maybe you are struggling, but find the resources your school provides. Become active in your school community and find the studying approach that works for you. After all I have been through, my motto is ‘Never stop, never quit, repeat.”