Don-Terry Veal Jr. is a pioneer in the engineering partnership between Morgan State, Purdue universities
Don-Terry Veal Jr., a pioneer in the 3+2 dual-degree partnership between Morgan State University and Purdue, attributes at least some of his personal successes to the fact that he is a “junior.”
“My father has been my idol since I was a child. I kind of follow in his footsteps, tangentially,” he says. “I’ve heard that you match your name, and so I guess he’s been that model in my life.
“If there’s a will, there’s a way, and he’s always going to make a way. For him, it’s not about playing by the rules. He’s always making his own, and I really respect it. If I can master that craft, I think I’d be ahead.”
Dreaming of bigger and better
Both of Veal’s parents are embedded in the world of education. His father, Don-Terry Veal Sr., has worked at both Auburn University and Morgan State, a historically Black university in Baltimore. His mother is a K-12 teacher. So when it came time for Veal Jr. to choose a college, he had a wealth of knowledge in his circle to inform his decision.
He joined his dad at Morgan State for his first semester, but his plan was never to stay long.
“I loved that I could talk to my dad after my classes and eat his lunch for my lunch,” he says. But thanks to his father’s example, he knew he wanted something different for his future. He had been interested in attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU) like Morgan State, but the university didn’t offer the degree he was really interested in – aerospace engineering.
“I went to Morgan State for the semester, and I just buried my head in the books because, honestly, I was just looking forward to my aerospace degree,” he says.
When the head of the physics department learned that Veal Jr. planned to leave Morgan State, he approached him with an offer. He knew that a partnership was in the works between Purdue and Morgan State, and if he stuck around for a little while longer, he would be able to get the best of both worlds.
“I figured that was an opportunity I could not pass up. And I didn’t. So that’s what landed me here at Purdue,” he says.
The program, called 3+2, allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in distinct majors from both Morgan State and Purdue. Students studying civil engineering or engineering physics will complete three years at Morgan State, earning enough credits for a bachelor’s degree, before moving to West Lafayette, where they can earn a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
The partnership with Morgan State complements Purdue’s efforts to provide opportunities for minority students in STEM fields.
“When you don’t see a lot of African Americans in the industry, especially in administrative positions, then it becomes a lot more daunting for you to see yourself in that position unless you already have some exposure to those who are pushing you,” Veal Jr. says. “That’s why I went to Morgan State: so I could experience more than just what is ‘the norm.’”
When you don’t see a lot of African Americans in the industry, especially in administrative positions, then it becomes a lot more daunting for you to see yourself in that position unless you already have some exposure to those who are pushing you.Don-Terry Veal Jr.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineering
A thirst for knowledge
For Veal Jr., this partnership was an opportunity to bolster an already-strong education. “It gave me more than just Purdue’s aerospace. It gave me Morgan’s engineering physics, and I also got plenty of opportunities to present research and to do new research,” he says. “I was very proud of the work that I did at Morgan, and I was excited to see where I can apply that in the aerospace field.”
Veal Jr. completed his three-year degree program at Morgan State in 2022, having already satisfied the requirements for an engineering physics degree. He’s now in his second semester of the two-year aerospace engineering program at Purdue and will receive his second bachelor’s degree in Spring 2024, after which he will move on to complete a one-year master’s degree in aerospace at Purdue. After that, he plans to pursue his PhD.
At both Purdue and Morgan State, Veal Jr. has enjoyed participating in undergraduate research.
“I practically lived in the lab for all three years at Morgan State,” he says. “Working in research is the only job I’ve ever had, and it’s the only job I ever want to have.”
Veal Jr. believes that the act of discovering something new is worth the complexity required to conduct research projects.
“I like learning things that no one has ever figured out before or optimizing something to the point that we didn’t think possible before,” he says. “It’s just that feeling of knowing I did this and it’s something that’s quality.”
In his current research, he is working alongside Amazon and NASA to study the effects drone delivery systems have on communities.
Veal Jr. believes that no matter what kind of research he’s involved in or how busy he is during his accelerated degree schedule, he will always be supported by the broader Purdue community that has welcomed him so quickly.
He says, “The student body and the engagement at Purdue is that which I have never seen before. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs or opinions are, you can find somebody who is willing to have a conversation. It’s just a really homey environment.”
The student body and the engagement at Purdue is that which I have never seen before. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs or opinions are, you can find somebody who is willing to have a conversation. It’s just a really homey environment.Don-Terry Veal Jr. Aeronautical and astronautical engineering