SMART Scholarship leads to early job opportunity for URI student

Department of Defense program guarantees engineering student a job for at least two years upon graduation

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 20, 2021 – Not many college students secure a job in their field more than two years before they graduate. Thanks to a prestigious scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense, University of Rhode Island rising junior Griffin Melican has a job waiting for him when he graduates in 2023.

Through the Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program, Melican will have his tuition covered for the next two years, he’ll receive an internship at a defense-related company of his choosing and his senior capstone design project will be sponsored by that company.

“I’m exceptionally proud to receive this award,” said Melican, who is majoring in electrical engineering. “To secure future employment as a rising junior is a big relief. But as much joy as this gives me, it makes me determined to finish college to the best of my ability.”

During the application process, Melican was asked to choose among three prospective employers, all of which would interview him. He ended up receiving an offer of employment from his top choice, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport.

Under the terms of the scholarship, Melican will work for NUWC for at least two years after he graduates, matching the length of the scholarship.

“I chose NUWC because I heard of them early in my freshman year and then later that year a representative from NUWC gave a presentation in a Naval Science and Technology class that I was in,” said Melican, a native of Grafton, Massachusetts. “When I learned about what they do, I became interested in working there.”

Melican will be mentored in the Undersea Warfare Platform and Payload Integration Department under the Missiles and Payload Integration Division at NUWC. His orientation will start in June 2021.

Michael Aunchman, head of the Embedded Systems Branch at NUWC, was one of the people who interviewed Melican before the scholarship was awarded.

“I found him to be enthusiastic about the type of work we do, and I had the feeling he would be an excellent choice for our team,” said Aunchman.

Aunchman was also impressed with something Melican wrote in his application.

“He wrote about the time he spent with his father, working and learning about how things work and how to fix them,” Aunchman said. “To me, this is the basis of a good engineer. One example he mentioned was restoring a classic car. That takes time, knowledge, patience and dedication, all of which are excellent qualities.”

According to Aunchman, Melican’s job at NUWC will involve working on software and electrical hardware design/development in the branch of the embedded system.

The application and interview process for the SMART Scholarship took a few months. But according to Wynston Wilson, Melican’s engineering academic advisor at URI, the initiative the student showed was emblematic of his character.

“Despite the uncertainty and pressure that comes with making such important academic and career choices, Griffin has taken advantage of his campus resources,” said Wilson in the letter he wrote nominating Melican for the scholarship. “He connected with his engineering advisors, career education specialist, and attended a couple of engineering seminars and career fairs for insight. Through exploration and curiosity, he found a strong interest in working in the naval defense sector.”