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MC grad transitions from student to department chairJuly 01, 2019

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Derek Gasch

In 2000, Derek Gasch graduated from Greenwood High School and started taking classes at Midland College (MC). After obtaining three degrees from MC, two degrees from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) and holding various full- and part-time faculty and staff positions at MC, Gasch is now MC department chair of Manufacturing Services. As such, he administers the college’s Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration program, Welding Technology program and Computer-Aided Drafting & Design (formerly Computer Graphics) program.

“CADD [Computer-Aided Drafting & Design] is my true area of expertise,” explained Gasch. “When I started at Midland College right after high school, I took classes in that area, and I loved it. After a couple of semesters, I was hired as a part-time lab assistant in the program, which eventually transitioned to a part-time lab instructor.”

In 2003, Gasch graduated from MC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Graphics and then continued taking additional transferable courses at MC. He graduated with his second and third associate degrees—both Associate of Science degrees—in 2004 and 2005.  However, before he graduated with his second degree, he made a career move that had a lasting impact on his personal life.

“In 2004, I took a full-time position at Midland College as clerk in the Technical Studies division,” said Gasch.  “This position required me to interact with clerks working in other divisions, and that’s how I met my wife Robin. At the time, she was a clerk in the Health Sciences division. So, I have Midland College not only to thank for my career success, but also to thank for my personal happiness.”

Robin and Derek have been married for 10 years and have two children—Thomas and Simon.

In 2005, Derek left Midland College to work for Midland-based Compressor Systems Incorporated (CSI) as a draftsman. This was the beginning of approximately nine years of back-and-forth between CSI and Midland College.

“I just couldn’t decide if I wanted to work in industry or in a college environment, but thankfully both CSI and MC always wanted me back,” stated Gasch. 

Fortunately for MC, the college environment became Gasch’s preferred career. After being employed in private industry for three years, Gasch was drawn once again to Midland College—this time in a teaching position. While still working at CSI, Gasch also taught evening classes in Computer Graphics at MC.

“I found that I really enjoy teaching and have a knack for it,” explained Gasch.  “So, in 2009, when a full-time faculty position in Computer Graphics became available, I applied for it and got it.”

Gasch left CSI and served as MC’s lead Computer Graphics instructor for four years. It was also during this time that Gasch went back to school himself to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and in 2011 he graduated from UTPB with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Industrial Technology.

Then, in 2013 with a wife and two children, Gasch decided that he needed to work in the private sector, so it was back to CSI. However, it wasn’t long before he decided that education is, indeed, his calling, and in 2014 he left CSI and was back teaching full-time at Midland College. Soon after, he was promoted to department chair of Manufacturing Services. In addition to some administrative responsibilities, Gasch is also able to teach in the field that he loves—computer-aided drafting and design.

During the past five years, Gasch has made some dramatic changes to MC’s Computer Graphics program in order to keep the program current with industry trends. He has implemented MC’s “Idea Factory,” which is a technology learning space that allows students the opportunity to collaborate, tinker, learn, design and make projects using a variety of tools and materials. An idea can be developed from conception to creation using the tools provided in the Idea Factory including 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser engraving, CNC milling, vinyl cutting and more. Gasch has been instrumental in seeing that industry-standard software is used in the Idea Factory, including AutoCAD, Inventor, Civil 3D, Revit Architecture, AutoCAD Architecture, 3ds Max, Intergraph CADWorx, and Carlson Survey. 

Currently, all CADD courses are taught at the Midland College Advanced Technology Center, located on Cuthbert Street in Midland. The Idea Factory is also housed there. However, this summer Gasch is making additional improvements to the program, and the Idea Factory and most of the classes will move to the main campus and be housed upstairs in the Fasken Learning Resource Center.

“The move to the main campus will allow us to expand our labs and the Idea Factory,” said Gasch. “It will also allow other disciplines, such as Engineering and Art to use the Idea Factory. In the Idea Factory, students can use an HTC Vive virtual reality system to design a structure and walk through it in a virtual environment. So far, we have used this to design homes and ‘virtually’ walk through the rooms.  Students also used it to design a car dealership and a bookstore with a coffee shop.”

Gasch explained that in addition to a larger Idea Factory, the Fasken Learning Resource Center is also being renovated to house two classrooms/labs for the program and his office. The program will still maintain one classroom at the Cuthbert location. Classes are taught by Gasch, one other full-time instructor, Vanessa Baker, and three adjunct (part-time) instructors.

Gasch has been planning the program’s expanding footprint for about two years. He has also been instrumental in changing the name of the program from “Computer Graphics” to “Computer-Aided Drafting & Design.”

“The program name change more accurately reflects what we teach,” said Gasch. “We are teaching our students to be drafters and designers. When students complete the program, they can obtain jobs in a variety of industries—engineering, architecture, building and contracting, oil and gas, surveying, civil engineering and in city government. There’s a huge demand for people with skills in drafting and design. Some of our students get jobs while they are still in school!”

During the time that Gasch has been planning the program expansion and new program name, he hasn’t just been sitting idly waiting for change to happen. This past December, he completed a Master’s degree in Business Administration from UTPB.

What’s next for Derek Gasch and the Computer-Aided Drafting & Design program at MC?

“This field is growing rapidly, and drafting and design technology is advancing every day,” said Gasch. “My goal is for Midland College to stay up with current trends so that we can provide state-of-the-art training in order for our graduates to get jobs with competitive salaries and so that they can enjoy successful and rewarding careers in the drafting and design field.”

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