From history to MS in Applied Manufacturing Engineering—why 1 Eagle Scout forged a new path


Russell Rawson, MS in Applied Manufacturing Engineering
Russel Rawson on site at a job. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

Russel Rawson is a man of many talents. We were curious to find out what drove this Eagle Scout who majored in history to enroll in University of North Alabama (UNA)’s Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering Program. Here’s what we learned. 

Meet Russel Rawson, who’s currently working on a Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering at UNA

Russel Rawson and son
Russel Rawson and his son at Scouts. (Russel Rawson)

It only takes a few minutes of talking to Russel Rawson to discover he’s an Eagle Scout who’s never lost his passion for learning and adventure. 

He’s the proud father of two boys. His ten-year-old is active in Boy Scouts, while his five-year-old is starting to get involved in Cub Scouts, as well. Of course, he’s a proud Scout leader, who recently got his Wood Badge. And, he also coaches both kids in hockey.

For over 23 years, he’s been a volunteer firefighter. In his spare time, Rawson volunteers with Nashville Steam, which is restoring a steam locomotive. 

Since 2014, he’s been working at Automation Solutions Inc., where he currently serves as the Huntsville supervisor. This is a Birmingham-based company that does automated controls and industrial automation, building custom machines for a number of clients, from automobile manufacturers to food plants. Think big robots and you get the idea.

University of North Alabama - Fall 2023

Hville Blast: What made you decide to go back to school?

Masters of Applied Manufacturing Engineering, man in front of control panel
Russel Rawson at work. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

Rawson: “To make myself a better person. My undergraduate degree is in history. I’ve got a very typical Huntsville background—both my parents were rocket scientists. I grew up doing lots of engineering stuff, but I didn’t have any formal training. I needed to go back and get the formal grounding for all the on-the-job learning and on-the-job training I’ve had.”

Hville Blast: How did you decide on UNA?

Rawson: “I had a long interview with the UNA staff about my background, and was very up front that I didn’t have the technical background you’d expect in an engineering major. They looked at the body of professional work I’ve done and the STEM classes I’d taken along the way, and agreed that yes, I should be able to succeed.”

University of North Alabama - Fall 2023

Hville Blast: How has it been, doing the Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering? 

Rawson: “It’s been incredible. I’ve had more support than I did in my undergraduate program.

For example, we’re working with Professor Shohag, who’s been my instructor several times and is my advisor. Sometimes I’ve needed an extra day because of work, because of something going on with the family, or because I had questions about the assignment since I don’t have an engineering background. He’s been really good about responding and doing everything he can to make sure I can succeed at this.”

Want to learn more? Request information today about UNA’s Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering.

Hville Blast: As someone who doesn’t have a formal engineering background, what has the classwork been like?

Russell Rawson at work, MS in Applied Manufacturing Engineering
Engineering at work. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

Rawson: “It’s been challenging. Even friends who have Masters in Engineering have looked at my classes and said ‘this is no joke.’

In some cases, I’ve been able to take the class, then get a professional certification based off of what the class has given me, combined with my background. For example, because of the coursework and support I was given by one of my instructors, I was able to go sit for the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional Certification.”

University of North Alabama - Fall 2023

Hville Blast: How would you describe your fellow students?

Rawson: “They’ve been really, really good. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them. Because our classes are all online, I don’t have the traditional student interaction, but I’ve been able to make some really good connections here and across the globe.”

UNA’s Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering

MS in Applied Manufacturing Engineering

What it is: a fully online, flexible program which offers high-demand skills and training, focusing on applied manufacturing technologies. 

Who it’s for: working professionals who hold a STEM degree. You can balance school, work and life and finish in as few as two years. 

What to expect: a versatile curriculum based on cutting-edge research and advising and mentoring support from experienced professors.

What you’ll develop: leadership skills using applied methodologies for the specific needs of manufacturing.

It’s affordable: the program is accessible for full-time professionals at less than $13,000, regardless of where you live.

It’s reputable: The Engineering and Technology faculty are steeped in real-world, applied engineering experience and hail from top-ranked universities.

Want to learn more about UNA’s Master of Science in Applied Manufacturing Engineering? Request more info today.

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University of North Alabama - Fall 2023
Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain
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