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Learn How the Missouri Innovation Campus Program Led These Grads to Careers at a Top Engineering Firm

By Janice Phelan, October 25, 2021

Chris Donnici and Jatyra HarrisChris Donnici and Jaytra Harris

Jatyra Harris and Chris Donnici, University of Central Missouri 2018 graduates, credit UCM’s Missouri Innovation Campus program with helping them launch a successful career at Burns & McDonnell just two years after graduating from high school. Both Jatyra and Chris began their UCM education as high-school juniors taking courses through the MIC program, an unique partnership including UCM, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and more than 50 industry-leading businesses.


A key component of the MIC program is its paid internships that begin during high school. Jatyra and Chris completed their internships with Burns & McDonnell where both MIC graduates were offered full-time positions with the top engineering firm. Jatyra, who majored in design and drafting and information and technology, works as an assistant electrical detailer. Chris, a drafting and design technology major, is an assistant civil detailer.


“Jatyra and Chris are excellent examples of what it takes to be successful in the MIC program,” said Stan Elliott, MIC director. “They were dedicated, determined, passionate and focused on navigating the academic course load as well as their internship experience at Burns & McDonnell. They have a tremendous career ahead of them!”


Jatyra, who graduated in 2016 from Raytown South High School, said she was looking for a STEM-based education. 


“The MIC program  and UCM offered the opportunity not only to follow this type of academic path, but get an accelerated education and head start on my career,” she said. “That meant I was able to get my associate degree the same year I graduated high school. Two years later, after graduating high school, I got my bachelor's and accepted my full-time offer with Burns & McDonnell. I graduated UCM debt free and already had four years of experience in my intended field.”


Chris, 2016 valedictorian at Van Horn High School, chose UCM and the MIC program due to the challenging, yet rewarding path it provided to higher education. 


“I was looking for something interesting to invest myself into, something more than just dual-credit or AP classes,” he said. “The MIC program provided a unique experience that I could not get anywhere else, while also preparing me for my career in the future. I have been at the same company I interned with for a total of seven years and have a large network of contacts reaching back to my MIC internship days.”


Both young professionals appreciated the MIC program’s  flexibility with quality courses available at UCM’s main campus in Warrensburg, at the Missouri Innovation Campus building in Lee’s Summit and online. 


“As an MIC program student, I was quite busy and occupied between my internship and college courses,” Chris said. The online and on-campus courses were both flexible and easy to access, helping ensure that he was able to successfully juggle a challenging course load while working.


“Another one of those opportunities was being able to buy a really nice home, completely on my own, at the age of 22,” Jatyra said. “I am really happy I joined the MIC program and UCM.”


An additional advantage of the University of Central Missouri is its people including the student diversity and campus environment. 


“I always felt safe, comfortable and included on both campuses, and even in their online courses,” Jatyra shared. “I liked walking through campus, no matter which one I was on, and seeing people of different races, ages, genders, culture, religions, social and ethnic backgrounds, and so on. It made me feel comfortable to be myself and take pride in my college. Every professor I had cared about the things they were teaching and about the students in their classes.”


Chris also praised the Missouri Innovation Campus facility. “Such an expansion of the UCM campus signals that the MIC program has a strong foundation and will continue to offer students many avenues to success,” he said.


About the Missouri Innovation Campus program

Through the nationally recognized Missouri Innovation Campus program, students take college-ready classes from UCM and MCC along with their high-school classes beginning with their junior year of high school. Students have the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree just two years after high-school graduation. In addition, they graduate with little to no student debt, participating in three-year, year-round, paid internships with the first two years of college tuition paid. MIC degree programs are in high-wage, in-demand areas such as engineering, big data/business analytics and information technology. More than 90 percent of MIC graduates are also hired by the industry-leading businesses where they intern. 



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