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Valedictorian Plans to Use Degree to Impact Developing

Michael Jeffrey Fahrner likes to find solutions to problems and he thinks a career in civil engineering will help him do that. He graduated with an Associate of Science degree in Engineering Transfer from Anne Arundel Community College and is transferring this fall to the engineering program at the University of Maryland College Park to continue his studies.

Fahrner, 22, grew up in Montgomery County and joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves right after high school. Meanwhile, his parents moved to Riva in Anne Arundel County, so he came back from Boot Camp to a new community.

He started AACC shortly afterward, but felt somewhat intimidated at attending college as a slightly older student. He also was unsure what career he should choose. He considered a couple of fields, but they were not the right fit.

At about that point, he received orders to get ready for deployment to Afghanistan. He was gone for about 18 months.

As an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan, Fahrner’s job was to assess the development in neighboring communities. He saw the positive impact infrastructure made on people. While he could report his assessment and even make recommendations on what was needed to help a community, he could not physically do anything to change the residents’ situation, which he found frustrating. One of the reservists was a civil engineer. He mentored Fahrner and convinced him that, while the training is rigorous, he could handle the academics of an engineering program and would enjoy being able to create things that help people.

“I’ve always loved to work hard, but I think I struggled to work hard at things I didn’t like to do. The Marine Corps taught me how to work hard when I didn’t like it … Not everything’s fun. There’s a reason that work is called work.”

Fahrner’s faith in God has been a big part of his life, saying it guides and prods him to do his best. He credits that faith, his military mentor and AACC’s faculty for helping him succeed. While his military deployment had solidified his career choice, he said AACC’s faculty made the difference in his success.

“From my experience of five years in the Marine Corps, I am well acquainted with good leaders. Good leaders lead from the front. They go above and beyond what they demand from their followers. They are passionate about what they do and evoke the same passion from those they lead. Finally, and most importantly, good leaders lift up those around them and put others before themselves. As I observed my teachers, I saw them display these exact attributes and my confidence level immediately began to grow.”

One professor remembered him after 18 months of being away, making him feel at home and welcome right away. Another poured all her energy into the class and made sure students knew that their learning and success was her number one priority. A third – who taught subjects not in his major – was so passionate about his subject that Fahrner said he signed up for the courses he taught because his enthusiasm was contagious.

The faculty at AACC not only had an impact on his education, but also positively affected his development as a person. Their actions “inspired me to work harder and dream bigger than I ever thought possible.”

“The teachers I’ve had have made this school. I thank them for all they did. They are why I love AACC.”