Support of family, employer guide engineering student's success

August 29, 2016
Cleveland Daniels with his wife Revette and son Nicolas
Daniels with his mentor John Caffey
Daniels received his hood for his master's degree at the spring 2016 commencement ceremony.


Many people who return to school do so to advance their careers. Cleveland Daniels had a similar goal in mind, but he took things one step further by collaborating with his supervisor to tie his education to his work.

Daniels is a Navy civilian who works as an Integrated Test Engineer for the Department of Defense at the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center in Mayport, Florida and oversees the complex processes that prepares a ship for service. Throughout his 20-year career with the Navy, Daniels has worked on everything from gas turbines to advanced electrical work and is the senior member of his team. Although he is recognized as an experienced leader, Daniels said he lacked the on-paper credentials to continue advancing as an engineer. His supervisor, John Caffey P.E., was aware of Daniels’ goal to receive a promotion, so he advised, reviewed, and approved his plan to make that goal a reality. The Master of Science in Engineering program at UW-Platteville would prove to be a critical part of this plan.

“We have a formalized process for obtaining a mentor in the federal government and you can choose your mentor, but there was no question it would be him,” Daniels said of Caffey. “By having my semester courses written into my individual development plan, there was no backing out. I was going to get my degree, and he was there to help me, whether it was reviewing a paper or sharing ideas. Once I got my degree, he made sure that was recognized in the department and will help me get my professional engineer license if I should choose to go that route.”

With Caffey’s support, Daniels was able to take the theoretical concepts from the virtual classroom and apply them to evaluating and improving projects within his department. Whether it was refining a specific process or improving relationships with contractors, he used the engineering management principles he’d learned with great success.

Over time, it became apparent that Daniels had a real strength for engineering management, yet he was pursuing an emphasis in electrical engineering control systems. Through the guidance of his advisor Tara Krueger, he was able to adjust his plan to play to his strengths.

“I found that I had the basic understanding of control systems from the first course in that emphasis tract but was really enjoying the engineering management courses and got good grades in them. Tara helped me reevaluate my emphasis and make a decision that was a better fit for me and my career, while still helping me achieve my goals,” Daniels said.

Daniels was able to thank Krueger in person when he attended graduation in May 2016. He had been thinking about attending the ceremony since starting the program and when his oldest son and daughter moved to Minnesota, Daniels said it seemed like the trip was meant to be. So he and his supportive wife, Revette, and his youngest son Nicolas, made the long journey from Florida to Wisconsin so Daniels could receive his hood, celebrate with family, and meet the people who had helped make his degree possible.

“It was really rewarding, and I really am proud to be a Pioneer."

“I wanted to be hooded and see the faculty; I wanted to have that experience after all the hard work,” Daniels said. “It was really rewarding, and I really am proud to be a Pioneer. I wear my UW-Platteville polo-shirts to work regularly along with my campus card dispenser lanyard, and I love to tell people about the program. It was a good journey for me, just as I hope it was for everyone in the program.”

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