Second Chances

August 19, 2015 | | Internal Press Release, Student Success

Rob Marshall

Community colleges are well known as institutions of higher learning where students can start their career or start over in a new career. Working in music as a freelance teacher and performer, 31-year-old Rob Marshall had planned to return to graduate school for music; however, considering the struggles he’d been having financially he worried about the additional cost of grad school. “It was mostly just due to chance,” says Marshall, when a family member mentioned that Chattanooga State was starting the Nuclear Power Engineering Technology program and figured it might be a better option for him.

Going from a Liberal Arts background to such a math/science oriented program like Nuclear Power Engineering Technology was a little daunting at first. “The first few weeks were a little rough. It had been close to ten years since I had taken any math or science courses, and I never had experience with industry or a power plant,” shares Marshall, “but my family and friends were supportive and instructors at Chattanooga State were very helpful as I adjusted to the new material.”

Rob gives credit to ChattState as the reason he is in the field at all. “I wasn’t qualified for this type of work, and really didn’t know that it was an option before I started the program,” he says. Nuclear Power Assistant Professors Tami (Lisa) Miller and Terry Newman were “especially helpful in the process of changing from a field so different from what I do full-time now,” he adds.

“Nuclear Engineering Technology is a good program and it’s worth pursuing if you are willing to put in the effort,” states Marshall. While its not the easiest major one can choose, Rob says, “the instructors are there for you if you show that you are willing to work for it … and the jobs are out there; you can’t beat the pay for a two-year degree!”

Following graduation, Rob began work at TVA as a Nuclear Assistant Unit Operator (AUO). His job requires him to perform daily tours and inspections of plant areas and equipment, tagging equipment out-of-service for maintenance. “As a nuclear AUO, we report to the control room for assignments or when they have an alarm. Since many things aren’t evident from the control room, we give feedback from the field and act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the plant. There are multiple crews that rotate through day and night shifts, so as an operations department we are always on site,” explains Marshall.

With a bright future and a good paying job, Rob is pursuing his education online to earn an electrical engineering Bachelor’s degree. His company offers tuition assistance after two years of employment and he happily states that he began classes this past summer.

For more information on the Nuclear Engineering Technology Program at Chattanooga State Community College call 423.697.4434 or visit