There is more to Mechanical Engineering Instructor Odell Glenn Jr. than his four degrees in different areas of engineering: mechanical (bachelor’s), manufacturing systems and electrical (master’s), and chemical (Ph.D.). Along with his passion for STEM education, he is also a published author, podcast host and pastor.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Glenn began his education as a shy young man who enjoyed math and let his love for the subject lead him into the engineering field. He earned the first of his four engineering degrees from Stony Brook University. After two master’s degrees from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, he completed his education with a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 2018, nearly 30 years after earning his bachelor’s degree.
“I was the quietest person in class growing up, but I really liked math. I went to a junior high school for the gifted and talented, and math was my forte. I knew it would be engineering, science or math that I would eventually go into,” Glenn says.
Glenn worked in industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island in a variety of engineering positions, including a product and design engineer and a test facilities engineer. In 2003, he began teaching night classes at his local community college. This is where he discovered his passion for teaching.
“The students were learning. I was able to advise and mentor the young people there, and I really loved it. Each morning, I found myself thinking more about teaching over industry and decided that something had to change. Teaching gave me a new spark of energy each day,” Glenn says.
Glenn became an instructor at Manchester (Connecticut) Community College, where he created new courses and programs. While pursuing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at USC, Glenn was a graduate teaching assistant and served as president of the USC Gamecocks Toastmaster Club. Both experiences helped continue to inspire him to become an instructor.
“Odell has that energy and excitement that students love. Sitting in class without being excited could be a real downer, but Odell isn't like that," says Travis Knight, Department of Mechanical Engineering Program Director.
Between the four degrees and lifelong connections with students, Glenn also published a book, “Caregiving -The Inspirational Manual: 200 Caregiver Tips with Healthy Lifestyle Benefits,” in 2015. He wrote it while being the main caregiver for his parents. Glenn is currently working on a new book on engineering pathways for high school students.
Glenn also hosts a podcast, “The OG Inspiration Podcast." Its purpose is “to inspire, motivate, empower, enrich the lives of others.” This is established through its many guests and topics. He also recently become a pastor of a small but growing congregation. The goal each Sunday is to create a space to make an impact by entering to worship and departing to serve the community.
“My faith has always kept me grounded and is integral in my everyday life. In all the states I’ve lived in, I always found myself active and involved amongst a community of faith. This is the fuel that helps me in all that I do and to inspire,” Glenn says.
Through his endeavors at USC, Glenn continues to inspire past, present and future students. This includes his participation in the First Generation Summer Program-Math Enrichment, overseeing engineering education senior design teams, and recruitment for the college at the Scholars Social events throughout the year.
With a wide range of academic and industrial experiences and being a published author, podcast host and pastor, Glenn believes that they all have brought him to where he is supposed to be. He tells his students that “sometimes you have to find yourself by doing lots of different things and eventually all the pieces of your total person will come together.”
“My broken pieces are coming together now, and I tell everyone I meet that you really need to find your voice and your genius,” Glenn says. “You have to find your passion and that may take time. Teaching, pastoring and inspiration through the podcast all vibrate on the same frequency and interconnect in more ways than one.”