Retired Navy chief petty officer keeps programs shipshape
Washington State Community College (WSCC) Industrial Technology and Chemical Operator Instructor Chris Carpenter always wanted to be a teacher. While he thought he strayed from that dream when he enlisted in the US Navy after high school, his service to our country resulted in a career’s-worth of teaching experience that ultimately paved the way for him to serve as a leader in a college classroom.
Carpenter was a submariner and served for 22 1/2 years on a host of submarines, referred to as boats by the Navy, including the USS Philadelphia, USS Groton, USS Pennsylvania, USS Alexandria, the USS Springfield, and the USS Nebraska. During those two decades while he worked his way up from seaman to chief petty officer, he regularly found himself in the position of teacher. “One of the jobs I had in the Navy was as an instructor,” he recalled. “I taught the hands-on aspects of operation of a nuclear power plant along with maintenance of the propulsion plant. As I progressed through my career, I continued the instructor [role], but it was training new mechanics that worked for me. I really enjoy the hands-on teaching and learning.”
As he honed his skills as an instructor, he was also sharpening his academic skills and enrolled in college. As his boat navigated the seas around the world, he took distance learning to a new depth. “The majority of my coursework was through distance learning. Not quite like our online courses [at WSCC] as I couldn’t access the internet under the ocean,” said Carpenter.
When he retired from the Navy in 2014, he wasn’t ready to spend the rest of his years on the greens of a golf course, or sitting in the rocking chair on his front porch. He wanted to share his decades of knowledge and wisdom. That’s when he realized it was time to pursue his first dream of being a teacher.
Harkening back to his Navy days, Carpenter keeps the industrial technology and chemical operator programs at Washington State running shipshape. He’s always emphasizing to his students two crucial skills that the military engrained in him: teamwork and diversification. “My programs are unique in that they are not the typical academic classroom-type of courses,” stated Carpenter. “My students are preparing themselves for in-demand industry jobs. They need to be able to work in a group and be able to understand the duties of others as well as their own.”
Carpenter’s programs support some of the most in-demand jobs in the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond, with job titles that include fabricator, draftsman, quality control, and field service technician. He said most of his graduates have job offers before commencement and many are already working in the field before they receive their diploma or certificate. In fact, it’s common for his students to be hired by the company where they interned.
His division works diligently to understand industry demands in order to produce skilled graduates. “We partner with local plants and manufacturers and align our curriculum with their needs,” Carpenter explained. “We want to ensure our students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they require.” Among the program’s business partnerships are FlexMag Industries, Hi-VAC, Skyline Steel, REO Logistics, MicroMachineWorks, Austin Powder, Nuclear Fuel Services, and Orion Engineered Carbons. Carpenter explained that each of these businesses provide a range of input and support, including offering students internships, providing opportunities for project involvement, and serving on advisory boards.
From the skills he drills in to his students to collaborative partners he aligns his programs with, Carpenter said ultimately, he wants to instill confidence in his students. “I want students to leave here knowing they can accomplish any task set before them. It doesn’t matter if it is layout of stock material for machining or constructing a drawing. I want them to be able to learn and teach themselves, don’t settle for answers like ‘it’s always been done this way,’ but to challenge the status quo and think outside the box.”
For additional information about enrollment in Industrial Technology or Chemical Operator programs, contact Admissions at 304-568-1900 or visit wscc.edu/industrial.