This month, thousands of college graduates will take part in the pomp that comes after years of hard work.
But after they take off their caps and gowns, too many will find themselves in the familiar circumstance of unemployment.
Not so for Mike Cola. A graduate student in the UNC Charlotte motorsports program, he landed a job with BorgWarner Turbo Systems in Asheville a few weeks before he officially graduates this month.
After he accepts his degree, the Ohio native will pack his belongings and move on to a career working over Indy race engines.
For the 150 students each year who enter the motorsports program, a concentration in the mechanical engineering major, the combined smell of rubber and fumes, the rev of an exposed engine and the blur of a car on a high-speed lap evokes the same joy a violinist feels when he hears instruments blend in an orchestra.
The college has pumped $10 million dollars into the state-of-the art facility, hiring five additional faculty members in the last three years, when most organizations were laying off employees.
Most of the motorsports industry has made donations. The largest cash donation, from the family of NASCAR racing champion Alan Kulwicki, totalled $1.9 million.
"The curriculum is so tailored to putting them right into the racing industry in Charlotte," said Luke Woroniecki, Kulwicki Motorsports laboratory manager in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science.
Ten percent of NASCAR engineers are UNC Charlotte motorsports graduates. Most of the students who enter the program go on to careers in automotive industry, from motorsports to engine manufacturers.
For Cola, who holds a bachelor's degree in physics, the additional expertise he picked up from the motorsports program proved to be the key to starting him on his dream job. "It's really exciting for me because I'm able to work in motorsports. That's my love. That's my passion."
Student Union Study Dayz. The Student Union will operate under extended hours, from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. May 9-12 for students who wish to study for exams. Meeting rooms will be available for study groups. Free coffee will be served in the Rotunda at 11 p.m. each night.
A free paralegal information session will be held noon-1 p.m. May 12 for those who want to learn more about the UNC Charlotte Paralegal Certificate program. The session is at the UNC Charlotte Ben Craig Center.
C4 Charlotte, a Christian organization made up of college students and young adults, will meet 7-8:30 p.m. May 15 at Crosspoint Worship Center, 9116 University City Blvd. Visit www.C4Charlotte.com for information.