Venny Fuentes enjoys when things click. Professor and chair of the Engineering Technologies/Engineering Science programs at County College of Morris (CCM), he thrives in a world of solving problems that is the heart of engineering. It’s also why he loves teaching.
“It’s that ‘aha moment’ when they get it,” says Fuentes.
For Fuentes, it’s gratifying to see a student who had trouble understanding a concept in the beginning of class grasp and teach it to other students later in the session.
The experience Fuentes imparts to those students is impressive. Growing up in Queens, NY, he attended the Aviation Career & Technical Education High School (commonly known as Aviation High School), before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Stony Brook and a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Fuentes’ dream as a youngster was to work with planes. Aviation High School gives students the ability to take FAA certification exams directly after graduation. While there, Fuentes realized, after speaking with teachers, that he wanted to go into engineering.
“I always enjoyed working with my hands, but engineering gave me an opportunity to work from multiple sides,” he says.
Before coming to CCM, Fuentes worked for Sperry on a project creating navigation systems for the Navy. He also worked on a project for Kearfott Corporation updating navigation systems for the space shuttle. The system was so vital that the company purchased a seat for it next to Fuentes on a commercial flight to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“We couldn’t afford to ship it. It was one of a kind,” he explains.
While working for Kearfott, Fuentes began teaching as an adjunct professor at CCM. That was more than 20 years ago. What led him to become a full-time professor?
“What I really liked about teaching was that you got to see results after a semester,” he says, adding that some of his previous work took extensive time to see the payoff.
As chair, he also enjoys advocating for students, facilitating their goals and helping them achieve graduation and transfer if that is a student’s desire.
“We have a great institution,” says Fuentes. “Both of my boys are graduates from here, so I very much believe in the product.”