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College of Engineering and Technology dean joins STEM organizational board

Jeff Ray

Jeff Ray, dean of Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology, has been named to the board of directors for FIRST NC, a statewide nonprofit group that works to inspire the next generation of engineers, computer scientists and educators.

"I have always been supportive of FIRST NC and welcome this opportunity for increased personal involvement in the organization. I also want to thank Dr. Paul Yanik, associate professor of engineering technology, for his dedicated service as WCU's previous representative," said Ray. "Through the broad scope of this organization's work and activities, I can picture first-generation college students enrolling in engineering, much as I once did. I see those same students graduating, finding careers and leading fulfilling lives because of that hands-on encouragement."

FIRST is an acronym meaning “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." The group provides accessible, innovative programs to motivate students to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) while also building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

FIRST NC also sanctions popular, age-appropriate learning competitions for K-12 teams, including Lego and robotics contests, to encourage and challenge students. The group also provides support materials and resources for teachers, as well as getting universities and community colleges to be involved with local K-12 schools.

"WCU is an integral supporter of FIRST NC in the mountain communities, and some of the area's participating students' paths will be through our doors, which is a primary reason my wife, Tina and I established in 2015 the Hopkins and Ray Engineering Endowed Scholarship, which is open to any WCU engineering or engineering technology student," Ray said.

Ray has been appointed to the Industry Advisory Board for the joint Tennessee Technological University (from which he holds two degrees) and East Tennessee State University's joint bachelor's degree in engineering program. He also serves with the American Society for Engineering Education as president of the ASEE Task Force on Faculty Teaching Excellence.

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