NCBC Public Affairs

Three and a half years ago, the former Naval Construction Battalion Center installation commanding officer, Capt. (ret.) Bill Whitmire had a vision. He wanted to bring the first civil engineering program to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Whitmire has since retired and moved on to other projects, but in his absence, Dr. Darlene Davis, the Navy College Programs regional advisor kept the ball rolling on the idea.

Upon learning from some high-performing enlisted Seabees, Whitmire realized that the road to becoming a member of the Navy Civil Engineer Corps was filled with hurdles. One of the biggest hurdles was the lack of a direct pathway for enlisted Sailors in construction trades to become CEC officers without having to leave the service. That’s when Davis began her crusade to make this dream a reality.

Two years ago, NCBC hosted a symposium where nearly a dozen colleges and universities met and shared what they could provide in regards to a civil engineering program. After the symposium, several colleges submitted applications to bring a civil engineering program to the base.

Through all the applications reviewed and researched by Davis, Norwich University won the contract with the base. The agreement between Norwich and MGCCC is one in which Seabees could obtain their lower level classes with MGCCC and transition right into Norwich’s BS/MS Civil Engineering programs with no loss of credits during the transfer. The reason for the partnership is to act as sort of a bridge to get Sailors ready for the upper-level courses for the program through providing core curriculum courses that may be prerequisites.

“The Norwich University application had stiff competitions from local and state applications for the opportunity to present their program to the base, but presented a convincingly better overall package for applicants’ education with the incentives and transferability of accepting all credits from the JST, tuition incentives, and being ABET accredited. One of the needed requirements is that they would be willing to work within the boundaries of tuition assistance for the military members,” said Davis.

Norwich University was the clear winner for the bid based on the criteria we were looking for. The biggest requirement is that they would be willing to work within the boundaries of tuition assistance for the military members,” said Davis.

This program is unique because of our partnership. The cost is $250 for undergraduate and $325 for higher-level courses. These rates apply to Active Duty and dependents.

The program, which needs a minimum of ten students in the classroom at all times to continue, is geared toward active-duty servicemembers and family members, but civilians with no affiliation to the base, can also attend classes on base.

Norwich is currently accepting registration for the program for its first round of courses in the Fall semester. Students can get more information and  register by going to

The average cost for students is $250 per semester hour for active duty and $250 for undergraduate courses after special grants and incentives for military spouses and children.

Local civilians who wish to attend will have an average of $375 per semester hour.

“This has been a labor of love. As you can probably imagine. It was a lot of administrative work and research. We are now the only program in the Mississippi Gulf Coast that offers the civil engineer program. It is fully accredited with all the accreditations required to be a civil engineer,” said Davis

The program will alleviate a problem that has been plaguing Seabee Sailors for quite some time.

“I felt that this was something really important to get accomplished. This will save Sailors from having to get out of the military in order to accomplish this academic goal. It really does solve an issue. I don’t believe Sailors should be disenfranchised by having to get out of the military to do this and then possibly decide not to come back in. They may get out to do this and get sucked up by the corporate world. Then the Navy potentially loses a good service-member,” Davis explained.

One of the burning questions in the minds of many service-members with a high operational tempo like the Seabees is the ability to attend in-person classes.

One of the criteria that we looked at with Norwich was what kind of systems would be in place so that no matter what happens in their (service-members) missions, there is a mechanism that makes sure that if they can’t make a class that they are not penalized monetarily,” Davis said.

Classes are now ready for registration and will begin in the Fall II semester, which begins in August and September. The current classroom space will be in Building 60 on the 2nd floor.