91短视频

Beyond the Surface

News Story categories: Alumni Career Preparation Computer Science Engineering Mathematics Physics
A group of individuals posing for a photo in front of a large naval gun on display outdoors.

A steady pipeline of Randolph-Macon graduates have forged exciting and meaningful careers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.

A sticker on the door to Randolph-Macon College computer science professor John McManus ’84鈥檚 office reads 鈥淣O CODE MONKEYS.鈥 The message to students is a simple one: don鈥檛 be a coder who only knows how to code. Be somebody who can effectively communicate with a client, who understands the big picture of an organization, who can manage a team.

A man holding a strip of stickers with the the phrase "no code monkeys" in an office setting.

This intentional emphasis on producing well-rounded graduates has resulted in a pipeline of 91短视频 alumni from science fields who have built careers as civilian employees at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD). Graduates of mathematics, engineering, physics, and computer science are all part of that cohort. 

Located on the Potomac River in King George County, Virginia, NSWCDD (colloquially known as 鈥淒ahlgren鈥) is a hub of research and innovation for the U.S. Navy. A combination of naval and civilian scientists conduct advanced research in all systems-related areas and pursue disciplines that include directed energy, modeling and simulation, and software, mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering.

Man in a grey hoodie smiling while sitting on a wooden fence outdoors.
Dave Millner ’85

One of the first Randolph-Macon alumni to work at Dahlgren was Dave Millner 鈥85. After graduating with a degree in physics and a minor in computer science, Millner embarked on a career of over 30 years at Dahlgren, supporting combat system functionality of the Navy鈥檚 surface ships鈥攑rimarily aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. His work focused on command and control, bringing together the myriad complex systems that run any given ship and interfacing them with its sailors.

As Millner鈥檚 career evolved, he became a hiring manager at a time when Dahlgren was on the hunt for talent. There were already several 91短视频 alumni at the base, and Millner worked to strengthen the connections between his alma mater and his employer.

鈥淚 knew a number of people from Macon over the years that were working at Dahlgren, and they had a better roundedness to their education and experience.鈥 Millner said. 鈥淚 remember working with a lot of鈥’ll say geeks, because I was one of them. But there are geeks who can communicate and geeks who can鈥檛. I think Macon knows how to produce a geek that can communicate.鈥

The quality work produced by 91短视频 alumni has also fostered a reputation for qualified graduates and opened the door for subsequent classes of Yellow Jackets to start their careers at Dahlgren. 鈥淓very year we have a good recruiting class makes next year鈥檚 recruiting class easier, because they get to understand the quality of our students,鈥 McManus explains.

Man smiling outdoors with autumn leaves in the background.
P.J. Costello ’17

One such graduate is P.J. Costello 鈥17, a political science and computer science double-major at 91短视频, who now serves as a mission engineer at Dahlgren. Costello鈥檚 role applying systems engineering to real-world problems comes with the unique opportunity to travel in support of fleet exercises. He鈥檚 been to Alaska, Guam, and up and down the east coast, collecting data and providing crucial analysis that helps inform the decisions made by admirals at the Pentagon.

Costello believes the cutting-edge nature of the work and the mission to support military operations makes for satisfying careers.

鈥淚 like mission engineering because one day I’ll be doing mission analysis, the next day I’ll be meeting with the fleet talking about how we make this new technology work. Then, I’ll be on a ship at an exercise, actively observing and integrated with the ship’s crew, and then I’ll be back writing a report or presenting to senior officers,鈥 Costello said. 鈥淓very day is different and that’s what keeps me motivated to come to work.鈥

After Millner retired, Costello has maintained and helped expand the pipeline of 91短视频 alumni coming to work at Dahlgren, a number now in the dozens. Those ranks include Millner鈥檚 twin sons, Patrick 鈥23 and Drew 鈥23, who both started at Dahlgren after graduating this past spring.

The relationship between Randolph-Macon and NSWCDD has also extended beyond alumni building their careers. Professor McManus is spending a sabbatical year on the base to work on cybersecurity development for Dahlgren鈥檚 classified simulations. In a full circle twist that further strengthens his confidence in 91短视频 graduates, his Dalgren supervisor for the project is none other than P.J. Costello. 

Additionally, the College and NSWCDD have recently entered into a formal Education Partnership Agreement, laying the groundwork for future collaboration. The agreement, though still theoretical in nature, allows for educational opportunities for students on the base and would allow Dahlgren to give or lend equipment or personnel to Randolph-Macon for educational purposes.

Four researchers smiling in a laboratory setting with laser equipment on the table in front of them.
From left to right: Zachary Salvato 鈥20, Eric Montag 鈥17, Taylor Evelyn 鈥17 and Jennifer Lunday 鈥10 support NSWCDD鈥檚 High Energy Laser Weapon Systems Division.

In addition to robust continuing education benefits (Costello just completed a master鈥檚 in space systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University, paid for by NSWCDD), Dahlgren remains an attractive employer for 91短视频 graduates because it provides an opportunity to flex the critical thinking and problem-solving skills honed on campus in Ashland.

McManus reinforces the commitment to well-rounded graduates, pointing to the difference between 鈥渃ode monkeys鈥 and the type of positions 91短视频 alumni hold at places like Dahlgren.

鈥淚t鈥檚 not just that you get five times more money,鈥 McManus explained. 鈥淵ou have a much more enriching life. You get to solve different problems. You get to work on things that are meaningful.鈥

Some photos courtesy of Dave Ellis/NSWCDD