Senior in Electrical and Computer Engineering named Vandegrift Co-op Student of the Year

Published: Oct 7, 2021 9:00 AM

By Joe McAdory

Justin Tran is a testament to why the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s cooperative education (CO-OP) program should be strongly considered by undergraduates desiring hands-on experience before entering the workforce.

Tran, a senior in electrical and computer engineering (ECE), not only has a standing job offer from the Southern Company upon graduation in May 2022, but he was recently named the 2021 Frank Vandegrift Co-op Student of the Year. Established in honor of the former director of Auburn University’s co-op Program, Frank Vandegrift, the award is presented each year to an outstanding Auburn Engineering co-op student.

“I am blessed and humbled to receive this award,” said Tran, who recently completed four co-op rotations with the Southern Company, including stints in Transmission Planning and Energy Management Systems. “The co-op program at Auburn University has helped me develop skills where I can be successful in the professional arena.

“I've been able to gain invaluable work experience from my co-op that augments my understanding of my computer engineering major. It's amazing how I was able to go into my co-op immediately after my first year of school in the summer, and the vast amount of information I took in at the time. Upon returning to class the following fall for my electrical engineering classes, I wasn't surprised that I already learned a good amount of information just from my co-op. Moreover, I was able to use my in-class experience from my software classes and apply them in the real world to facilitate the work of my co-workers in a professional environment.”

As either a future Transmission Planning or Energy Management professional at Southern Company, Tran will put his co-op experience and ECE foundation to use – sourcing potential problems before they materialize.

“The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Auburn was the perfect fit for me,” he said. “Receiving a solid educational foundation in computer science and electrical engineering prepares me to better handle transmission analysis and software development– the core functions of Transmission Planning and Energy Management Systems, respectively.”

Tran, a Montgomery, Alabama, native, and member of the university’s co-op Ambassador team, didn’t expect to one day be working for the South’s largest utility organization. Instead, he saw himself developing microprocessors or graphics cards.

“My co-op experience both shifted and confirmed my career plans,” he said. “This is how impactful my experiences have been. This is how my professional growth has strengthened with my networks. This is how I’ve succeeded in being a co-op student.”

Students interested in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s co-op program, which features more than 100 recruiting companies and an average salary of $19.50/hour, are encouraged to schedule an appointment with co-op coordinators via Handshake or contact Charlie Wilder, assistant director for cooperative education, at

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Justin Tran will begin a career at the Southern Company upon graduation in 2022.

Justin Tran will begin a career at the Southern Company upon graduation in 2022.

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