Campus Life

UWF engineering students accepted to prestigious Air Force program

Five University of West Florida graduating engineering students have been accepted to the highly selective United States Air Force S&E Palace Acquire Program, established to heighten the Air Force’s ability to maintain the leading edge in today’s technology-intensive environment by hiring dynamic, creative and innovative scientists and engineers.

UWF students Josue DeJesus, Lee Fulton, William Posey, Shawn Reid and Jessica Whitten will have the opportunity to participate in the well-planned, three-year development and training program.

The first and third year involve work experience at the cutting edge of technology, while the second is devoted to graduate studies paid by the Air Force. Successful completion of the PAQ program can result in promotion to journeyman-level engineer or scientist.

“Securing a position in the PAQ program testifies to a student’s educational and professional success and leadership potential,” said Dr. Mohamed Khabou, associate professor and chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UWF. “Previous participants indicate a high level of satisfaction with the program and appreciate the advancement opportunities it offers them, such as support for graduate school and promotion to management positions.”

Sean Sylvester is a recruiter for the Air Force and instructor at UWF. He says the students who stand out are self-motivated and consistently go the extra step in class, in lab assignments and homework.

“The PAQ program is a great way to start an Air Force civilian science and engineering career,” Sylvester stated. “Completing grad school makes them stronger assets for their organizations and prepares them for future competitive promotions beyond the GS-12 level.”

Incentives to participate in the PAQ program, he says, include a 25 percent hiring bonus, student loan repayment up to $20,000 and a year of graduate school with paid tuition and books, during which they earn a full GS-9 salary.

According to Khabou, the PAQ program only accepts applicants from ABET-accredited programs, such as UWF’s engineering programs. He says the ECE curriculum is routinely updated to reflect the needs of the regional workforce, using feedback from an Engineering Advisory Council composed of representatives from various local industries, institutions and programs including the PAQ program.

This year’s PAQ group represents a record number of students accepted from UWF.

“The five students who were accepted this year are high-achieving students who worked hard and distinguished themselves in many ways, including conducting research with engineering faculty and co-authoring papers with them, participating in robotics competitions and beating much bigger and better known schools, and taking internships with local companies and research institutions,” Khabou said. “These students will succeed in whatever ECE career they choose to pursue.”