(May 16, 2015) Joshua Ryan Baham did it! He walked across the stage Saturday morning at McNeese State University’s spring commencement with a bachelor’s degree in engineering (mechanical) – finishing something he started back in 1999 after graduating from Sam Houston High School in Moss Bluff.
And he said he could not have done this without the help of McNeese mechanical engineering faculty and classmates and the support of his employer, Chevron, and his wife, Quinn, and children, Drake, 3, and Katie, 2.
“I enrolled at McNeese after high school in mechanical engineering,” said Baham, who currently lives in Iowa. “I always liked to build things and take items apart to see how they worked. Engineering seemed perfect for me.”
However, he concedes that he may have spent more time participating in extracurricular activities than on studying for his more difficult courses so he decided to change his major to process plant technology during his sophomore year in 2002. He received both his associate and bachelor’s degrees in process plant technology.
While at McNeese, Baham attended career fairs and got an internship with Chevron in the summer of 2004 and was later hired by Chevron to work offshore.
Since then, Baham’s gotten married and has two children. “Working offshore is a great job and pays well, but as a parent, I soon realized that by working offshore, I was missing important milestones in my children’s lives. I wanted to be home. So, I decided to go back to McNeese and finish my engineering degree.”
He said the four-year degree would allow him to not only spend more time with his family because of the change in careers but would also allow him the opportunity to move up within the company.
First, he met with Dr. Ning Zhang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at McNeese, to see if the chemical, civil and mechanical engineering department could work with him and his offshore schedule.
“As a non-traditional student returning to the classroom, I told Dr. Zhang that I was focused on this goal and asked if McNeese could help me achieve this,” said Baham. Zhang said the department would work with him in scheduling his courses and Baham enrolled in the fall of 2010.
“Josh is one of the most dedicated students I have ever met. He clearly knew what his goal was and worked very hard to achieve it. I have absolutely no problem helping students who are willing to learn and want to succeed. Mr. Baham was always one of the top students in my classes,” said Zhang.
After getting the green light from McNeese, Baham then went to talk with his supervisor and co-workers at Chevron about his career plans, which would eventually include a one-semester leave of absence to take 18 hours on campus. “Chevron was very supportive - it helped pay my tuition and granted my leave of absence last fall,” he said.
“I can’t say enough about how my professors both in engineering and in other departments worked with my crazy schedule, letting me make up quizzes and tests when I was back in town,” he added. “I took advantage of online classes and independent studies and classmates took notes and emailed them to me so I could stay ahead.”
Baham admits it took a little longer than he had hoped, but he was all smiles on Saturday.
“Everyone at McNeese worked with me to make today happen.”