The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) has had special meaning for Julian Bell since his undergraduate days at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
He has found different ways to give back and stay engaged with his alma mater.
A 1986 mechanical engineering graduate, Bell is chief risk and business officer for Signal Energy, a Chattanooga-based engineering firm that designs and builds solar farms all over the United States and Australia.
“We are hired by companies, utilities or power production companies that have land they want to place a solar power plant on,” said Bell. “We are given the basics like, ‘Here is the land. Here is the amount of power we want to produce, and here are the requirements for interconnecting with the utility or with the grid,’ and we design a solar facility within those parameters.”
In his role, Bell judges the risks Signal Energy is taking in its business dealings. The company has shown that it is not risk-averse to bringing aboard UTC graduates. Of its 450 employees, more than 30 are alumni of the University, mainly from College of Engineering and Computer Science.
In addition, numerous UTC engineering students have participated in the company’s growing internship program.
“We love UTC graduates. They’re excited about what we do. They offer excellent creative solutions, and from a technical standpoint, we have found they’re second to none,” said Bell, who was the keynote speaker for the annual Technology Symposium in April, an event with more than 250 UTC students participating
“We have found that the UTC program really prepares its graduates. College of Engineering graduates and those coming out of the master’s of construction management program are good at not staying siloed and having blinders on. They look at the situation and come up with really creative solutions that work.”
Recently, Bell established the Julian B. Bell Family Scholarship as a way to show appreciation to his alma mater.
“I had a wonderful time at UTC and really loved the institution. Having seen it grow and seeing how much it’s changed since I was there, I wanted to give something back,” he said.
“There comes a point in everyone’s life where you look back as much as you look forward, and then you think, ‘OK, where do I owe some gratitude, to what people and to what institutions?’ UTC played a huge role in helping me develop as a person but also as a thoughtful member of the workforce.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Chancellor’s 2021 Annual Report to the UC Foundation.