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Meet Curtis Thoene: S.T.E.P. graduate

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s commencement ceremonies in December 2010, Curtis Thoene walked a few important steps across a stage to obtain the diploma conferring his bachelor of science degree in Agricultural Engineering. However, the most meaningful “S.T.E.P.” in his career as an engineer might be the one he took in 2008, with UNL's Strengthening Transitions into Engineering Programs: opportunities funded by the National Science Foundation at the College of Engineering.

Curtis Thoene

Thoene, a 2006 graduate of Crofton High School, earned his associate of science (A.S.) degree in 2008 at nearby Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb., where his major was Pre-Engineering. He said this choice helped him “be close enough to home to help on the farm and also save a little money” while pursuing his dream.

"I always knew I was going to end up at the University of Nebraska," said Thoene, who admits he is a dedicated Husker fan. More importantly, he added, “I feel Nebraska is a great engineering school…there is no doubt in my mind I made the right decision."

"The S.T.E.P. program started (during) my second year at Northeast," Thoene said. "S.T.E.P. allowed me to take a few classes that were typically not offered at community colleges. Taking these classes helped me lighten my load at UNL."

David Jones, professor of Biological Systems Engineering, said he was proud of Thoene as a graduate of S.T.E.P., which he leads at the UNL College of Engineering.

"It’s one moment of success for S.T.E.P. as we build relationships with community colleges in Nebraska, and help our incoming transfer students get involved and connect with resources at UNL for shorter ‘time-to-graduation,’” said Jones. “We do this because the path can be challenging for transfer students, and we value their hard work."

Thoene praised "first and foremost" the Agricultural Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering programs at UNL’s East Campus. "The entire faculty in the department helped make my transition between colleges very smooth," he said, adding they "were very helpful and would always go out of their way to help me when I needed it. I am very grateful for them."

Thoene said he appreciated the many experiences available to UNL students. "I was a part of a few clubs and there seems to be a club for just about anything that interests you. I also enjoyed meeting many great people -- students and faculty."

"With this degree I will be able to do things I have wanted to do all my life," Thoene said. "I can work for a company that uses its employees’ knowledge to make the world a safer and more comfortable place to live in."

"It just feels great, after countless hours of doing homework and studying, that I finally have this degree from UNL,” said Thoene, who is job hunting. “My plan is to stay in Nebraska and work for an engineering firm that works with soil and water resources, or irrigation. Eventually, I would like to move back to northeast Nebraska and farm."