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From Tech to the Appalachian Trail to TCC

While hiking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, Trey Rauh decided he needed a new professional direction. He found the right course at Tidewater Community College, where he is pursuing his Associate of Science in Engineering.

“TCC is close to home and the price was right,” said Rauh, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2012 with a bachelor’s in environmental sciences. “At Tech I had some good friends who did two years at community college and saw that they were well-prepared and adjusted. I knew TCC would be great preparation for what I eventually wanted to do.”

The Hickory High School graduate had been an environmental science consultant ensuring staff was following the appropriate legal regulations. Buried in paperwork, he found himself drawn to conversations about design with his engineering colleagues.

A six-month journey trekking the trail from Georgia to Maine solidified his decision to transition to TCC. “That break from work made me realize that I want to be creative on the job,” he said. “In engineering, you can see what you accomplished at the end of the day. I like that the work is creative and involves technical skills.”

Rauh, who plans a career in automotive or aerospace design, selected TCC’s transfer degree so he can return to Virginia Tech for his second bachelor’s degree. After just one semester, he landed a full-time, paid summer internship doing research for the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN).

CIAN is a multi-institutional research effort funded by the National Science Foundation seeking to provide affordable internet access to rural or economically disadvantaged areas across the country.

Rauh is working with professors at Norfolk State University on a project that would decrease the cost of building optical networks so more people have access to them.

“I’m enjoying working with new technologies and being part of a team. It’s a little mind-blowing to think that our work may impact many people’s lives,” he said.

Rauh is also enjoying his classes at TCC. “My professors are more than happy to expand on topics. They are passionate about what they teach and they have industry experience.”