From Nuclear Submarines to Engineering Student: How This Veteran is Using CNM to Build a New Career in STEM

Michael Pacifico had a successful career in the US Navy and now he’s an Engineering student at CNM with a bright future ahead of him.
October 11, 2022

For several years Michael Pacifico served as a Nuclear Electronics Technician where he worked on the nuclear reactors in the Navy’s submarines. After leaving the service, he worked for Hess Systems Inc, where he gained valuable hands-on experience in machining and soldering as well as developing and fabricating circuit boards.

Then COVID hit and everything changed. His work hours were reduced and he started to think about a new career. He saw that CNM offered an Engineering track, and even though it had been 10 years since he had tried college and his first try hadn’t gone so well, he worked up the confidence to enroll again despite being an older and non-traditional student. 

I wasn’t worried about being an older student. I’ve always had friends who are older and younger than me, so I can fit into a group pretty easily,” he says. “I was most worried about coming back to math after so many years.” 

And at first math did present a challenge. He got an F on his first math test, but decided to reach out to his instructor and peers, both of whom helped him relearn the material and boost his confidence. He worked so hard that by the end of the term he finished with an A. 

Realizing that support was necessary for success, Michael joined the STEM Core cohort at CNM. This program guarantees enrollment in key classes, a weekly meeting with faculty members and an academic advisor, and most importantly, a group of like-minded and driven students who are working toward a similar goal. Being a part of this group has given him several networking opportunities and ultimately a community of people he’s happy to call his friends. 

“We get to go through class together and we keep each other motivated,” Michael says. “You know at least one person in every class, if not five, so you’re never alone. It’s just a good time.” 

The support at CNM also reaches deeper than Michael’s classwork. He’s accessed many other resources to build his resume and make connections with industry professionals. He recently interviewed for a summer internship with a rocket lab that specializes in solar panel production, thanks to the help of Phil Lister, the Dean of the School of Math, Science & Engineering, who shared Michael’s resume through his connections at the lab.

Down the road, Michael will be pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of New Mexico and eventually wants to land a job in aerospace engineering. He’s grateful that his journey led him to CNM, where he’s built a solid foundation and formed relationships with students and professors he might not have gotten at a traditional university.  

“I’m glad I have the opportunity to be here,” he says. “None of this would have happened without the people at CNM.”