Microsoft Donates Scholarship Funds to Big Bend Community College

Student working on a data server

MOSES LAKE — Microsoft recently announced a $10,000 gift to Big Bend’s Computer Science program that will support scholarships for students working towards the college’s new Manufacturing and Process Technology (M&PT) degree.

The new scholarships will be awarded to students who qualify and take courses pertaining specifically to the M&PT, Mission Critical Operations emphasis for the first of two years toward a degree. Mission critical is a popular industry term used to describe the essential services required for day-to-day operations that could impact the bottom line or cause a potential shut down.

The Mission Critical Operations emphasis pilot launched during the 2019 fall quarter and prepares students for entry-level facilities management positions, although some data centers call these positions facilities or building engineers. Employees in these positions could potentially earn salaries in the range of $48,000 to $60,000 per year to start.

BBCC Computer Science Specialist Tom Willingham said the Mission Critical Operations emphasis concentrates primarily on industries with large facilities to manage, such as data centers.

“Data centers require a significant variety and quantity of equipment, physical structure, electricity, cooling, security, and maintenance of these to support the Information Technology (IT) requirements on a daily basis,” said Willingham. “Someone needs to monitor these to ensure that they operate correctly and efficiently. Schedules for operation, maintenance, and replacement must be carefully coordinated to prevent catastrophic loss.”

Students can also transfer these skills to other industries including manufacturing, food production, education and healthcare.

Big Bend first offered its data center training program in the fall of 2017, and many students from the pilot cohort have since moved from the classroom into full-time jobs at data centers in the area. The program utilizes work-based learning partnerships, which allows students to gain hands-on experience before graduation.

The Data Center Specialization training came to BBCC as a request from some of the larger data centers in the area. Willingham said this has led to great relationships between the college and industry partners, such as Microsoft.

The company has supported the college’s Computer Science program in the past through equipment donation and additional scholarship funds.

“We can always count on Microsoft to support our students and the college; they have a long history of helping us achieve our goals,” said BBCC Computer Science Specialist Tom Willingham. “We are very excited about the prospects of this new program: support for the data centers and great opportunities for our local students.”

To learn more about the new Mission Critical Operations emphasis or the Microsoft Data Center Academy and its scholarships, contact Tom Willingham at 509-793-2321 or

Fall quarter classes begin Sept 21

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