UVU Celebrates the
First Graduating Class
From New Engineering Programs

  By Rachael Freeman | Photos by Jay Drowns 


UVU graduate Scott Newin poses outside the business where he once worked selling tires, before pursuing a career in engineering.


After five years as a tire technician, a side business building off-road vehicles, and a gig at an automotive dealership, Scott Newin realized something — he didn’t want to turn wrenches for the rest of his life.

Frustrated with his career and direction in school, Newin turned to friend and frequent customer Ron Mortimer, a member of the board of directors at Horrocks Engineers.

“I went down to Horrocks and told Ron I was frustrated about schooling,” Newin says. “I told him, ‘I don’t even know what an engineer does.’ He told me about his daily responsibilities and the company.”

Mortimer asked if Newin would leave his current job as a bank teller if an internship opened at Horrocks. “In a heartbeat,” Newin said.

A few weeks later, the internship opportunity arose, and despite his inexperience, Newin won the interviewers over with his work ethic and determination. Once onboard at Horrocks, Mortimer encouraged him to meet with Dr. Saeed Moaveni, dean of Utah Valley University’s College of Engineering and Technology, about joining the university’s new civil engineering program.

“When I met with Saeed about the engineering program at UVU, my mind was already made up to become an engineer,” Newin says. “I know that I am by far not the smartest kid in class. I work at it, but having to work full time and have a family in school was not easy, and I was nervous about the engineering program. Saeed helped me realize that the staff at UVU was more dedicated to the students’ well-being than big research-oriented schools — that the UVU program was going to show and teach students at a personal level rather than as a whole class. I felt this on day 1 with the staff.”

In 2020, UVU celebrated the first graduating class from its newly established engineering programs. A total of 21 students, including Newin, officially graduated in May with degrees in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, and electrical engineering, and they were honored with a graduation service in August.

Since its creation in 2018, the newly formed engineering department has become an established part of the College of Engineering and Technology. The engineering department is experiencing rapid growth and has quickly become one of the largest departments in the college. This rapid growth could not have come at a better time, as opportunities for employment are booming within the engineering fields.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of the almost 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2017, the numbers of degrees awarded in the fields of engineering were just 116,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the engineering industry is growing 4-8% each year.

“At a time when we need more engineering graduates to address our societal needs, only 6% of college graduates in the United States are engineering majors,” Moaveni says.

The need for qualified graduates is even greater within the local engineering industry. According to the Utah System of Higher Education, “Technical education offered by [higher education] institutions directly fuels Utah’s economy and contributes to individuals’ economic well-being.”

It was this growing need from industry and vision for the future that prompted the development of four-year bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and electrical engineering, in addition to the already existing bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at UVU.

These new programs were selected due to the high demand in the local industry, specifically for engineers with each particular skill set. Engineering Department Chair Afsaneh Minaie says that the department plans to continue growing in the coming years.

UVU’s engineering programs are specifically designed to prepare graduates with professional experience, internships, and hands-on learning that will prepare them for a smooth transition into the workforce. This focus on hands-on, experiential learning is something that electrical engineering graduate Mike Zimmerman valued greatly during his time at UVU.

“The labs were the best thing for my education,” Zimmerman says. “Hands-on learning is critical to an engineering degree. Being able to apply the theory helps solidify everything in my head.”

Zimmerman’s path to the UVU electrical engineering program took a non-traditional path. When he first started at UVU, he was a single father. He also had served in the army straight out of high school, where he was trained as a radar repair technician.

Upon completing his contract with the army, he decided to pursue a degree in engineering. The open-enrollment policy, hands-on learning, and small class sizes were key factors in his decision to enroll at UVU. But he faced many challenges while pursuing his degree in electrical engineering.

“When I first started my path, I was a single father,” he says. “I had to split my time between raising my daughter and doing schoolwork. After a while, I found that I needed to supplement my GI Bill, and I started working part time. Eventually, I ended up needing to work full time as well as go to school full time.”

While undoubtedly challenging, Zimmerman turned the need to work full time to support his family into an opportunity to gain professional engineering experience. Upon graduating, he accepted a job at Digi International as a radio frequency engineer. His degree in engineering qualified him for the position, but it was his professional experience that set him apart from other applicants.

Another graduate from the civil engineering program, Chito Capunay, originally enrolled at Utah Valley University but decided to transfer because the university didn’t offer a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the time. He returned to UVU once university officials announced the creation of the new engineering programs in 2018.

“Saeed helped me realize that the staff at UVU was more dedicated to the students’ well-being than big research-oriented schools — that the UVU program was going to show and teach students at a personal level”

–Scott Newin

“The small class sizes really helped me to be able to work closely with professors to make sure that I understood the material in a way that prepared me for the professional field.”

–Julie Hansen


Julie Hansen poses for pictures on a water pipeline construction project in Payson, Utah 

“UVU allowed me to use my core engineering courses and let me take the required civil courses without pushing my timeline back,” he says. “It was a huge blessing for me to be able to get back to UVU to get my engineering degree so seamlessly.”

Before graduating, Capunay received several job offers. He credits networking with engineers in different disciplines as key to his success. He now works as a field engineer at Hensel Phelps, based in Hawaii.

“I always thought I would be a design engineer, but I chose this position in field engineering because it will allow me to be up and about, solving problems on the fly and not always sitting at a computer,” he says. “This sounded like a dream job to me, and I accepted it.”

Finding innovative solutions to real-world problems is at the heart of what engineers do on a daily basis. Engineers of all fields apply math and science to find practical solutions for day-to-day problems. In 2016, the BLS projected a total of 139,300 new jobs in the industry by 2026.

To help meet this need, students in the engineering program at UVU are grounded in the fundamentals of engineering through a well-rounded education. Class sizes stay small, with emphasis placed on hands-on learning and working closely with professors and other engineering students. In fall 2020, the engineering department hired six new full-time faculty members.


“I studied civil engineering at UVU because it felt like each professor was personally invested in my success,” civil engineering graduate Julie Hansen says. “The small class sizes really helped me to be able to work closely with professors to make sure that I understood the material in a way that prepared me for the professional field.”


Hansen accepted a position with Jacobs Engineering Group in Taylorsville, Utah. During her time in the civil engineering program, she led the UVU student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She also captained the first concrete canoe team that placed in the 2019 Rocky Mountain Regional Conference.

Given the rapid growth of the engineering programs at UVU to date, the College of Engineering and Technology is working to secure funding for a new engineering building. This innovative building will be the first ‘smart building’ at UVU and will be a landmark for engineers and higher education facilities across the nation.

“The new engineering facility on UVU’s campus will provide a sustainable, state-of-the-art learning environment and experiential infrastructure,” Moaveni says. “It will meet the increasing demand for engineers who are innovative, highly capable leaders, and skilled practitioners in their respective fields.”

To learn more about the new engineering building, please visit