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Electrical engineering major finds family atmosphere at Blinn College and Texas A&M-RELLIS

‘You just want to be somewhere that wants you, and I just feel wanted here,’ says Johnnie Armstrong

Johnnie Armstrong

February 20, 2023

Johnnie Armstrong found more than he ever expected from the Blinn College District and the RELLIS Academic Alliance at Texas A&M-RELLIS.

Not only is Armstrong on track to earn his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University-Texarkana, one of the 11 universities offering high-demand degrees at the cutting-edge Texas A&M-RELLIS campus in Bryan, Texas, but he also discovered a passion for cybersecurity. Just as importantly, he found a community of like-minded peers and caring professors who have supported him every step of the way.

Armstrong started his educational career at the Blinn-Bryan Campus before shifting to Blinn-Brenham, where he enjoyed living on campus and found a tight-knit campus atmosphere. In fact, during a recent visit to the Brenham Campus, Armstrong ran into Engineering Professor Jennifar Aktar. Even though Armstrong wasn’t enrolled in her classes any longer, when he told her he was struggling with one of his upper-level courses in electromagnetics, Aktar immediately offered to help.

“She just told me, ‘Hey, I’m here,’” Armstrong said. “‘Any time you need help, this is my phone number, just reach out.’”

Armstrong met another professor ready to help when Dr. Abdallah Farraj, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering with Texas A&M-Texarkana at RELLIS, stopped by one of his classes to share information about Texas A&M-Texarkana’s electrical engineering bachelor’s degree program at RELLIS.

“He looked me straight in the eye and he said, ‘I can help you,’” Armstrong recalled. “He asked me what I wanted to be, and I told him I wanted to be an engineer. He said, ‘I’ll help you achieve your dream.’ He looked me straight in the eye and he just looked so serious when he said it. He was very genuine.”

Inspired by his encounter with Farraj, Armstrong enrolled in the program. As a Texas A&M-Texarkana student at RELLIS, Armstrong receives all the benefits of a campus with state-of-the-art resources, including an internet of things apartment, a real-time power simulation platform, and a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) lab where students can test, develop, and research technologies that defend against cyber attacks. What Armstrong enjoyed most, however, was the unique community RELLIS offered.

“I always have conversations going on with my professor,” Armstrong said. “I can email him at 12 o’clock in the morning or 12 o’clock at night, and I’ll wake up in the morning and have an email back, and sometimes I’ll get an email back a few minutes later. It’s just a real nice experience.”

Farraj has been just as impressed with Armstrong, noting that the Cypress Lakes High School graduate is driven to learn both inside and outside the classroom. At RELLIS, Armstrong has had the opportunity to explore applications for microprocessors, robotics, and electromagnetics.

“Johnnie is very curious and always looking for ways to learn and experiment with new things,” Farraj said. “He likes to work with his hands and is self-driven to learn.”

Armstrong has even gotten to know many of the administrators on campus. Dr. James Nelson, Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of the RELLIS Academic Alliance, gave him a tour of the campus one day, guiding him around the 2,000-acre campus that features state agencies, private businesses, and state-of-the-art testing and research labs.

“I just really feel important here,” he said. “You just want to be somewhere that wants you, and I just feel wanted here.”

Now, Armstrong is looking forward to earning his bachelor’s degree in May 2024 and already is exploring career opportunities in both engineering and cybersecurity. He recently earned certifications in information technology and cybersecurity from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

“Most people are on Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram. I get on LinkedIn,” he said. “I’ve been applying for a lot of electrical engineering opportunities, but I’m applying for cybersecurity internships too because I am mutually interested in both.”

For more information regarding the RELLIS Academic Alliance at Texas A&M-RELLIS, visit RELLIS will host an on-campus information session at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 14. A virtual session for freshmen will take place Tuesday, April 4, and virtual sessions for college transfer students will be held Wednesday, March 1, and Monday, May 29. To register for an upcoming information session, visit

For more information about Blinn’s Engineering Program and its pathways for students to earn engineering bachelor’s degrees at universities across the state, visit

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