Where are they now?

Thursday, October 23, 2014
Over the course of the past year, ConnectED has run articles about several students, covering topics such as internships and dream jobs, and focusing on their higher education experience. In this issue, we thought we’d give a “progress report” on what two of those students have been doing since the initial articles were published. 
In the summer of 2013, both Katherine Hunt and Christine Weaver agreed to talk about the role that co-ops have played in their career path. As students at the University of Cincinnati, both had access to the Co-op and Internship Program offered by the university in their pursuit of an engineering degree.
 
 
Katherine Hunt – Biomedical Engineering
After reviewing all that’s happened in the past year, Katherine provided some answers that connect her degree pathway to the real world. Today, as a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Katherine still appreciates her co-op experience and the knowledge she gained through hands-on learning.
 
Share information about any additional experiences you’ve had since summer 2013 that you think have been valuable.
I completed my co-op at Cincinnati Sub-Zero and came away with a very good understanding of the needs of a medical device company. I also knew that Quality was an area that I enjoyed and would love to work in. In my final year at school, I completed a capstone project that let me walk a medical device through the whole design and development phase. Everything was very hands-on and we got to work with physicians and industry professionals. Being able to experience and walk through the whole process brought together everything we had learned in class and allowed us to bring in knowledge gained from our various co-ops. This thorough understanding of the entire process (although on a smaller scale than industry) gave me the ability to understand my role at my current company and how my contributions affect all other departments. 
 
What tips would you give students for balancing studies with a co-op experience?
I would advise them to take advantage of co-op experience as much as possible. Even if their chosen school does not have a built-in co-op program like the University of Cincinnati, use summer breaks to get some on-the-job experience. Even it is not the exact area you think you would like to pursue after school, the experience and knowledge you gain are invaluable. Solving problems in the real world is very different than classroom or capstone exercises, and you will soon realize that all companies face similar problems regardless of their industry. This exposure to problems and developing your problem solving skills is the true benefit of co-op. 
 
When we last spoke, you said you envisioned yourself developing medical equipment, working with doctors and hospitals to manage the development process. Tell us what has happened since then to alter or bring you closer to those plans.
My current position does not allow me to interact directly with doctors or design medical devices. However, I am still very much involved with medical devices and my company is growing, so I am still working toward that goal. 
 
Are there any organizations in which you have become involved since graduating that you would recommend to others?
I am currently a member of the American Society for Quality. I have been to one conference for its Inspection Division and would highly recommend the organization to anyone in industry. It is not specific to any type of company and covers all aspects of quality in business. 
 
What has been most challenging as a recent graduate in terms of connecting to the workforce?
Right now I am still on the learning curve. My current company molds plastic and prior to this, I had no experience with manufacturing plastic components. I am still working on understanding the industry and all of the acronyms and terms. 
 
 
Christine Weaver – Aerospace Engineering
Although extremely busy with studying and continuing to pursue her major, Christine still took the time to reflect on the last year, and what the co-op experience meant for her education. 
 
Share information about any additional experience you’ve had since summer 2013 that you think will be valuable once you graduate.
Since summer of 2013, I have had the opportunity to work in two other teams within UTC Aerospace. I got to be in the brake control systems group, where I worked on developing new technology, and I got to be on a project engineering team, where I worked on new programs. I was able to see many sides of the industry and all of the stages that a product goes through. 
 
What tips would you give students for balancing studies with a co-op experience?
Always keep a schedule! Time management is key in life. In your schedule, you can add as much or as little as you want, but make sure to capture the basics so that you can plan your weeks accordingly. Also, when you are doing something fun, find a way to leave your stresses from school and work behind. 
 
When we last spoke, you said you envisioned yourself being in Florida in five years, working with unmanned aircraft systems. Tell us what has happened since then to alter or bring you closer to those plans.
I am currently looking for full-time opportunities. While searching, I have used key words that fit my wants and I plan on applying to as many defense companies as possible. As for Florida, I may or may not end up there, but I do still want to move somewhere warm or by a beach. That is just something I have wanted since I was little.  
 
Are there any organizations with which you have become involved on campus that you would recommend to an incoming freshman?
There are many things that I am involved with on campus. My three favorites are all very different from each other – the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Chi Omega, and the UC Skydiving Club. These three are my favorite because one is for my major, one is to get me connected to others on campus, and one is just for me to enjoy. I believe those three conditions are best for all college students. If an incoming freshman were to pick three clubs with those three criteria, then they would have an amazing college experience.