College of the Mainland students learn process technology principles by operating COM’s 10-foot glycol separation unit.Another group of classmates (one of two shifts) for the COM PTEC 40-hour run that took place December 8-December 10.

A just-released report by the magazine Community College Week ranked COM fourth in the nation in the number of degrees awarded in 2012 in the science technologies/technicians category. The publication based its report on U.S. Department of Education data showing 76 process technology graduates that year, a nine percent increase over the previous year.

“We have a strong, rigorous program. All of our professors have 20-plus years of experience in the field. That’s part of what makes our program unique,” said COM process technology department chair Jerry Duncan. “Students excel in employers’ tests.”

David Gosnay, operations manager, derivatives, at LyondellBasell Industries, works with COM students through the internship partnership at that company created three years ago.

“Working with COM has been very beneficial for us. The students are well prepared, and our success rate with COM students is very high,” said Gosnay. “We recruit from all local colleges, and COM students seem to be better prepared.”

Stephen Flowers, of Dickinson, is among COM’s growing number of process technology graduates who are in demand at energy, chemical, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas companies. Before he strode across the stage to receive his diploma from College of the Mainland, he had what every student craves – an offer of a full-time job.

After a paid internship at Dow Chemical while a COM student, Flowers received an offer of a permanent job completing the same work, creating chemicals for solvents and paint.

“(COM professors) Mike Cobb, Steve Wethington, Al Jivan and Jerry Duncan helped guide me through the transition from college to real life,” said Flowers.

Besides internships, COM students gain hands-on experience by taking shifts and operating the 10-foot glycol separation unit at COM during the capstone course for 40 hours continuously.

“We simulate working in a plant,” said Duncan. “That really sets us apart.”

Preparing students to serve as leaders in industry, the COM process technology program boasts one of the highest job placement rates in the state: nearly 89 percent in 2011-12.

The process technology program’s introduction class has no prerequisites. While including rigorous courses in chemistry, physics and math, the program incorporates hands-on learning as students learn through skits, sketching and teamwork.

“Students who are really successful in the program are kinetic learners, who learn by doing,” said Bill Raley, COM dean of industrial/technology programs. “It is not about rote memory, it is about applying knowledge.”

Graduates face open doors in industries from energy to food processing.

“The average age of operators is in the 50s. They are approaching retirement,” said Duncan. “There is a lot of opportunity out there.”

To learn more about the COM process technology program’s day and night classes offered at a nearly a third of the cost of private institutions, visit