“How Education Experience Enriches Lives and Allows Students to Conquer Their Possibilities”, By Dr. Alain S. Miatudila, Sr

Cover story

Last June, Dr. Alain Senga Miatudila received the 2021 National Organization for Student Success Award for Outstanding Alumnus of a Student Success Program (NOSS). In this essay, he recounts his journey from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to the United States, where he arrived without speaking English. Today, he is a professor and academic leader at the university where he studied. He emphasizes the value of education. From my experience, I have learned that education is a way out for everyone. “In my quest, I look back and forth to lend a hand to others and help them along their journey. I have always shown a passion for education and students…My passion is to impact the lives of students in a positive way. I believe that students are our future…” he explains in this op-ed, among other things.

Dr. Alain Senga Miatudila, Sr. is the Associate Dean of Engineering at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). He joined the CPCC Engineering Division in July of 2019. Dr. Miatudila is responsible for strategic planning and academic affairs of 10 engineering undergraduate programs: Biomedical Equipment Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Computer-Integrated Machining Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Electronics Engineering Technology, Geomatics Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology, and Sustainability Technologies.

Dr. Miatudila’s academic background includes a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering, a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Technology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte). Dr. Miatudila also graduated from the CPCC Civil Engineering Technology program with an Associate’s degree in Applied Science.

Prior to his CPCC appointments, Dr. Miatudila was a Faculty Associate for 11 years in the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management (ETCM) at UNC Charlotte. He contributed to the ETCM Department from 2008 to 2019 and taught undergraduate civil engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, geomatics engineering technology, and construction management courses.

Preceding his years of higher education appointments, Dr. Miatudila worked for 10 years within the industry in the North and South Carolina regions. He held positions with Persis-Nova Construction, Co., and R. Joe Harris & Associates, P.L.L.C. His work experience covers a vast range of civil engineering, infrastructure, construction management, architecture, and interior design.

Dr. Miatudila has remained active in the local community in many ways. In 2013, Dr. Miatudila was honored by CPCC as the recipient of the Richard Hagemeyer Educational Advancement Award. This award recognizes a former CPCC student who has significantly benefited from their experiences at CPCC and whose efforts have helped the community. Since 2016, Dr. Miatudila has been actively serving as a member on the advisory board for the Academy of Engineering at Independence High School of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s school system. He has also been actively volunteering as a hospitality servant leader at Transformation Church since 2012.

 

In addition, Dr. Miatudila has been serving as the president of the Congolese Association of Engineers since 2018. In 2020, Dr. Miatudila was honored by the North Carolina Organization for Student Success (NCOSS) as the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Alumnus of a Program award. This award recognizes a former student-success program affiliate associated with NCOSS who displays a source of pride for the program.

Dr. Miatudila mainly enjoys spending family time with his wife Ma-Ikay Miatudila and his children Grace, Alain Jr., and Leeya Miatudila. In his spare time, he enjoys doing yard work, playing basketball & table tennis, watching football, basketball, tennis, and listening to sports radio WFNZ.

“How Education Experience Enriches Lives and Allows Students to Conquer Their Possibilities”, By Dr. Alain S. Miatudila, Sr

“I was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a teenager, I was interested in Architecture; drafting was my hobby and my passion. My focus changed from Architectural to Civil Engineering upon my high school graduation.

My father did his best to provide a good education for my 6 siblings and I, but education was limited due to low wages and the DRC requiring parents to pay for their children’s academic fees from elementary school to university. During my teenage to young adult years, there were no employment opportunities to support my education. Due to this, I was limited in opportunity and financially unable to attend a university in my country, which stalled my dream of becoming a civil engineer.

Fleeing potential civil war, pillaging, and strife in my country, I came to the United States as an immigrate and later received status of refugee.  Upon my arrival in the US in 1996, I spoke no English. This was 6 years after graduating high school, but I still kept my dream of becoming a civil engineer.  I began working full-time as a cashier at Handy Pantry gas station in Charlotte, North Carolina to earn a living.  Due to language barriers at work, I enrolled in English as a Second Language class for immigrants at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, North Carolina at no cost.  After two months, the class was completed, and I spent the next two years learning English through everyday conversation.  After two years of work experience at Handy Pantry, I realized that something had to change.

Since I was already 28 years old, I did not want to prolong getting my degree. I applied to CPCC in the summer of 1998 and was admitted as a student in the Civil Engineering Technology program.  My English placement test score was very low though; therefore, I was placed into English and Reading developmental courses.  The first semester was very difficult; I struggled but was determined not to let my language barrier deter me from achieving my academic dream.  I still remember my first college instructor, Dr. Patty Hill-Miller, who taught Introduction to College Reading.  She constantly encouraged me to do well, continue with my studies and believed in me as a capable individual.

Dr. Alain Miatudila and Dr. Patty Hill-Miller

After a year at CPCC, I began taking Civil Engineering Technology courses. It was then that I met another wonderful instructor named Mr. Tom Page.  Tom was not only an instructor, but a mentor.  He encouraged and motivated me until I graduated from CPCC with an Associate degree in Civil Engineering Technology in 2001. Thanks to that strong foundation from CPCC, I transitioned to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) within the top 10% of my class and graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Technology.

Over the next seven years after graduating with my bachelor’s, I secured several civil engineer staff positions with a variety of companies in the North and South Carolina regions. Persis-Nova Construction, Co. and R. Joe Harris & Associates, P.L.L.C. are a couple of the companies where I gained experience in civil engineering, construction, architecture, and interior design.In 2008, I joined UNC Charlotte as a Faculty Associate in the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management (ETCM), the same department where I was once a student.

 I served in the ETCM Department for 11 years from 2008 to 2019 and taught undergraduate civil engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, geomatics engineering technology, and construction management courses.  In addition to being a full-time instructor at UNC Charlotte, I was also a student. I took classes towards a master’s degree and then a Doctorate degree in Civil Engineering at UNC Charlotte. I graduated in 2012 and 2016 respectively within the top 1% of my class. Also, in 2020, I earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate professional certification.

In July of 2019, I joined the Engineering Division at CPCC as the Division Director of Engineering. In August 2020, I was promoted to the Associate Dean of Engineering position. I’m responsible for strategic planning and academic affairs of 10 undergraduate programs which include: Biomedical Equipment Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Computer-Integrated Machining Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Electronics Engineering Technology, Geomatics Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology, and Sustainability Technologies.

As you can see, both my academic and professional careers have come full circle and all roads lead back to the same institution at CPCC and the division/department where I was once a student.

Impacts

From my experience, I have learned that education is a way out and up for all.  In my pursuit, I not only look forward, but I also look backwards to lend a hand to others and help them along the way. I have always demonstrated a passion for education and students.  Between my CPCC graduation in 2001, my tenure at UNC Charlotte from 2008 to 2019, and now, I still stay connected with both CPCC and UNC Charlotte. The strong support I received from my family has allowed me to mentor and inspire students. In my spare time, I can be found in my office assisting students or at CPCC’s Admissions Office accompanying my fellow immigrants. I especially enjoy supporting young adults struggling with language barriers to apply for admission at CPCC, where I once built my academic foundation.

During my tenure at UNC Charlotte, I was instrumental in solidifying the path for many CPCC students transferring to the university, aiding to allow their transfer process to UNCC more likely. Additionally, I’ve been a strong advocate for the matriculation of CPCC students. I’ve served as a member on the advisory board of CPCC’s Engineering Division where we update and collaborate on curriculums, as well as help organize work-based learning activities.

My knowledge of the engineering material and breadth of experience are exemplarily presented in the classroom and/or field setting, as they have given me the tools necessary to impact many students at UNC Charlotte. All of the engineering technology students at UNC Charlotte knew me as I would greet and speak with every one of my students in the hallways between classes and made it a point to get to know them on a personal level. Any time students were struggling with school or life in general, I was always there to support them and would push them to succeed in every possible aspect. I was always there to help and had an open-door policy; if I could not be found in my office, then I was more than likely in the Smith building computer labs assisting students with their assignments or their senior capstone projects. I would still be there with the students working into the late hours of the night.

I have made a commitment to lifelong learning and to inspiring students at any level from experience and understanding that holds great value for them. For example, during the Fall 2019 semester, I was a guest speaker for my first college instructor’s class, Dr. Patty Hill-Miller’s Reading Developmental course at CPCC.  I shared my academic and professional journey with her students. I also invited her students that expressed an interest in Engineering to visit afterwards.  At the end of my presentation, many of her students expressed a feeling of connectedness.  What resonated most with them was the fact that they could relate to me.  Years ago, I embarked upon the same journey that they were now just beginning, and I was once a student in the same class that they were attending. At one point, a student commented “and now you are the Boss!” and it was definitely a watershed moment. I believe that was the moment her students realized that even though they were beginning their academic studies in a developmental course, they too could do great things and accomplish their dreams.

I also stay connected with the local community.  I’ve actively been serving as a member on the advisory board for the Academy of Engineering at the Independence High School of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s school system since 2016.  My involvement in this program has allowed me to play a key role in the revision and collaboration of the curriculum, as well as in the organization of its work-based learning activities. I’ve also helped provide opportunities for high school students to experience the diverse world of engineering and education by giving them the chance to build relationships with advisors before heading to college or university.

I have been an effective member of The Congolese Community of Charlotte (Communauté Congolaise de Charlotte et ses Environs) since 1996. I have also been actively volunteering as a Hospitality Servant Leader at Transformation Church since 2012. In addition, I am the founder of The Congolese Association of Engineers (CAE) and I have been serving as the president of The CAE since 2018. The CAE is a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting the advancement of engineering professionals and education.

Finally, I mainly enjoy spending family time with my beautiful wife Ma-Ikay Miatudila and my children Grace, Alain Jr., and Leeya Miatudila. In my spare time, I enjoy doing yard work, playing basketball & table tennis, watching football, basketball, tennis, and listening to sports radio WFNZ.

Awards

In 2021, I have been awarded the 2021 National Organization for Student Success Award for Outstanding Alumnus of a Student Success Program. This award recognizes an alumnus of a student success program who has distinguished himself/herself in an educational career and other areas of life.

In 2020, I was awarded the 2020 North Carolina Organization for Student Success Award for Outstanding Alumnus of a Program. This award recognizes a former student-success program affiliate associated with NCOSS who displays a source of pride for the program.

Dr. Alain Miatudila is presented with the North Carolina Organization for Student Success Outstanding Alumnus Award, October 27th, 2020

In 2013, I was honored by CPCC as the recipient of the Richard Hagemeyer Educational Advancement Award. This award recognizes a former CPCC student who has significantly benefited from their experiences at CPCC and whose efforts have helped the community.

Conclusion                                                                                                

I am very privileged and thankful to be in this situation to impact “Student Success.”  Student Success should not be a slogan, but a process. CPCC President, Dr. Deitemeyer always said: “Our focus is to keep Student Success the center of everything we work for; it’s our top priority, that all the students are getting their goals met.”  My formal UNC Charlotte – ETCM Department Chair, Dr. Brizendine said: “Our duty as professional educators is to add value in the lives of the students that we serve each day.”

My passion is to ultimately influence students’ lives in a positive way.  I believe that students are our future. Educational Philosophy Statements used by The Oregon State University states: “I believe each and every child has the potential to bring something unique and special to the world.”  In addition, Live Life Happy.com states a quote: “There’s no limit to what you can learn with an open mind.” Therefore, I care deeply about our students and I’m very connected with them. I’m always encouraging students to pursue their studies regardless of the challenges they may face.

In closing, my academic journey began in a Developmental Reading and English class at CPCC eventually leading into a Doctoral in Civil Engineering – Infrastructure and Environmental Systems class at UNC Charlotte.  As a non-native English speaker, it was not easy.  The Developmental Reading instructor Dr. Patty Hill-Miller inspired me to reach beyond my language limitations and to never give up.  Today, I am the Associate Dean of Engineering at CPCC, the same institution and division/department where I once was a student. I’m thankful for God as He has been merciful to me; I am grateful to be placed in this leadership position to inspire students just as these heroes from both CPCC and UNC Charlotte helped me to grow academically, professionally, and personally.  If one can learn anything from my journey, it is this… hard work pays off, but you must be willing to do the hard work to get the payoff.  Above all, it takes time and courage to influence others.  I’m a shining example of how education experience enriches lives and allows students to conquer their possibilities”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *