Pratt & Whitney engineer says attending PBSC was priceless

When it came time to choose a college to attend, Palm Beach State College alumnus Ivan Franco, now a project engineer with Pratt & Whitney, didn’t hesitate.

“I realized there were an abundance of resources available to students at PBSC,” said Franco, who was born in Colombia and emigrated to the United States in 2006. “For starters, the career planning, tons of engaging organizations that stimulated my academic growth, and a great atmosphere to learn. After my freshmen orientation and greeting faculty, I felt that all my goals and aspirations were backed up at PBSC.”

Franco says PBSC also gave him something priceless: the ability to pursue a higher education without the looming burden of financial debt.

After graduating from the Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College through the gold track in 2020 with an Associate in Arts degree, he transferred to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship winner where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering through their honors program.

Today, in his multidisciplinary position, he plays a critical role in the planning, execution, and management of engineering projects. As a member of the Component Integrated Product Team for Pratt & Whitney, he works closely with other disciplines to identify risks, constraints, and primarily address root causes to recommend product improvements. In 2022, he won Pratt & Whitney’s Accountability Award.

Franco sat down to answer a few more questions about his time at PBSC, what makes the College special, and the advice he would give to others.

How did earning a degree or credential from PBSC set you apart?
As a student under the Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College, my professors ensured that every course was tailored and specific to enhance my knowledge in the subject. When it was time to start my core engineering course at Embry-Riddle, I felt empowered and prepared because of the strong foundation I built at PBSC.

I instantly became a resource for my classmates because of the knowledge and understanding I had developed in science and mathematics. Not to mention the class sizes in PBSC versus other institutions, I felt like I had gotten to know all my professors at the end of each semester which is something uncommon in big universities. A solid foundation made me an excellent transfer student at Embry-Riddle and positioned me to absorb all the engineering principles which would eventually land me an internship and come back to a full-time job right out of college.

What is your fondest memory from your time as a PBSC student?
My entire experience at PBSC was the best, and I would do all over again, from the friendships I created during my time at various clubs, memories studying for tests, and volunteering at events made it a phenomenal time. If I had to pick one memory, it would be attending an SGA event in Tallahassee on behalf of Palm Beach State to advocate for students. It is one thing to see the benefits from legislative bills to promote student success, but the real magic is going to speak to senators on both sides to advocate upcoming bills that will improve the lives of thousands of students in the state of Florida.

Which PBSC professor or instructor made a lasting impact or impression on you, and why?
I would love to say one specific professor, but all my professors bestowed me part of their wisdom about the world, and I am grateful for everything I have learned. From music appreciation with professor Allen Webber to learning calculus 3 with professor Alex Opritsa, each subject made me a more well-rounded individual. I will say that learning from professor Opritsa about math was fascinating to the point where I even joined his math club, and my biggest takeaway was the geometric fractals of nature. Learning about how something so intricate can be broken down into fractals really blew my mind, and I have learned to appreciate nature differently.

What advice do you have for today’s PBSC students?
Take advantage of ALL that PBSC offers, especially getting involved with an organization that aligns to you. There is something for everyone, and I absolutely recommend being the change you want to see on campus and off-campus. The greatest rewards in life are not how much you can get, but how much you can give. Also, invest in your academic journey, and I mean in the sense to take courses that will inspire you to become better and that only happens at the end of the comfort zone.

I recommend everyone to join the Honors College, especially if you are planning to pursue a degree that requires a strong understanding. You will be more competitive when it is time to apply for a job. Lastly, don’t forget to make connections and have fun, college is a learning experience to grow and become the person you were meant to be.

What advice do you have for recent PBSC graduates entering your field?
My biggest advice is to apply for internship positions before graduation. I wished I utilized handshake’s internship portal. There are tons of companies that are looking for eager people, so please don’t feel intimidated because you haven’t had any experience. The goal of an internship is to get a general feeling of the industry you’ll be getting into, so they are looking for leaders and people who take initiative.

In recognition of Palm Beach State College’s 90th anniversary, the weekly Alumni Spotlight Series showcases the College’s role in preparing generations of graduates to achieve success in myriad careers and give back to their local communities.

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