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Students Explore Automotive Innovations, Career Opportunities at North American Auto Show

January 28, 2013

By Dale Long, Director of Media Relations

Ten female students got an up close look at the future of America's automotive industry and learned about how they could soon make a difference in this key segment of the nation's economy. Rose-Hulman was the only educational institute outside of Michigan invited to bring students to the Inforum Leadership Seminar that was part of this year's North American Auto Show in Detroit.

             Detroit Autoshow
  Auto Show Guests: Students participating in the recent Inforum Leadership Seminar and attending the North American Auto Show in Detroit were (front row, from left) Allyson Abel, Allyson Nelson, Alyssa Mantell, and Brittney Lake. In the back row (from left) were Austin Mroz, Salonee Gupta, Tracy Older, Kathryn Schmahl, Ashley Loy, and Katherine Czaplicki.

The unique opportunity provided industry insight, accessibility to influential leaders, and inspiration about the possibilities of working in the industry. Meanwhile, the case for companies to develop, retain, and advance women has never been stronger. During the trip, students also visited Chrysler's Tech Center, were introduced to key Ford Motor executives, and met several Rose-Hulman alumni that work in the automotive industry.

"The greatest place on earth is not Disney World, it's the Chrysler Tech Center," says mechanical engineering student Tracy Older. "We saw all different areas that go into making a car. As an engineer, we understand how a massive wind tunnel works. However, seeing the actual wind tunnel put into practice the fluid mechanics we're learning in college."

Alyssa Mantell, another mechanical engineering student, adds, "This trip opened my eyes to interests in the auto industry. I didn’t realize the diversity of career opportunities in the automotive business and the Chrysler Tech Center tour took us on a trip through each sector. From art majors to engineers, there seems to be a position that will suit a wide variety of interests."

Electrical engineering student Brittany Lake plans to start her post-Rose-Hulman career with Ford, after interviewing with the company last fall.                

"After spending some time learning about the automobile industry, I am even more excited about my decision," she states. "This industry is very interesting and many students don’t get the opportunity to see just how cutting edge the technology really is."                

Meanwhile, mechanical engineering student Katherine Czaplicki was an intern at Chrysler last summer and is interested in the company's Institute of Engineering program, which provides recently hired engineers six challenging four-month rotational assignments in key areas of product development, manufacturing, or quality.               

"It was great to see the different opportunities available in the Detroit area and the different paths that leading women in those companies have taken," says Czaplicki.                

Seeing The Future: Allyson Nelson (left) and Brittany Lake had the opportunity to examine tomorrow’s automotive technology during a recent visit to Detroit. Rose-Hulman was the only non-Michigan college invited to meet leaders and engineers from Ford and Chrysler during the trip.

Mechanical engineering student Ashley Loy came away impressed with all the work – from original design to the final assembly line – that goes into producing high-quality vehicles, and the large role that engineers have throughout that process. “It is astonishing and I never realized how important the whole process is. At the Chrysler Tech Center, I was amazed at the technology that goes into making each vehicle model better and safer than the last,” states the self-professed “big truck fanatic.” “I never realized how interesting the automotive industry could be and the potential it held.”               

Passing along leadership advice during the Inforum Leadership Seminar was Chrysler Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne, who brought together two companies with cultures as different as its global brands Alfa Romeo and Jeep. He also discussed how his company is winning the talent war with diversity and inclusion. Later, the Rose-Hulman students had the chance to meet Nancy Gioia, Ford Motor Company's director of global electrification, and several female peers in the automotive industry.               

"We just got to see real women doing what they love and juggling everything. These women showed that you could have your cake and eat it too," says Older.               

Loy adds, “The aspect of enjoying a career for so long had the biggest impact on me from the trip. The women we met just love what they do.”               

The students appreciated the special invitation to explore their possible futures.               

"Rose-Hulman offers so many great opportunities to its students that I’ve learned to never say no to one," states Mantell. "I was not planning on pursuing a career in the automotive field, but this trip opened my eyes to interests that I didn’t realize I had."               

Salonee Gupta, a mechanical engineering student, adds, "The trip to Detroit was a great learning experience as well an eye opener to the opportunities that are in front of us."

Other students participating in the trip were Allyson Abel, Austin Mroz, Allyson Nelson, and Kathryn Schmahl. Faculty and staff mentors were Bill Kline, dean for innovation and engagement; Ashley Bernal, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Zac Chambers, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Advanced Transportation System program; and Dick Boyce, director of foundation and corporation relations.