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Female Students Encouraged to Jump on Board Auto Industry's Tech Movement

February 7, 2014


Looking At The Future: Students enjoying behind-the-scenes look at the future of the U.S. automotive industry while attending the recent North American International Auto Show were (back row, from left) Ashley Loy, Hannah Bailey, Katherine Czaplicki, Tracey Older, and Christine Rollins. In the front row are Salonee Gupta,  Heather Knapp, and Meleyna Kistner. (Photo by Ashley Bernal)

Eight female Rose-Hulman students didn’t have to look very far to be inspired for careers in the automotive industry as special guests at Inforum’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Breakfast.

For the second straight year, Rose-Hulman was the only non-Michigan university invited to have students attend the event. It was conducted in conjunction with the organization’s AutomotiveNEXT, an industry group that brings together experts and practitioners who collaborate on automotive industry issues, share best practices, and bring forth new ideas. NAIAS is considered one of the top global automotive events in the world.

Ford Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields was this year’s keynote speaker.

“It’s time to bring ‘the sexy back’ for the auto industry and make it a really compelling place young women would want to join to make great careers,” Fields told the students.

Inforum came just days after Mary Barra started as the chief executive officer of General Motors Company, becoming the first female to lead a major automaker.

“The trip made me realize that, as a woman in engineering, I can do more with my degree than I thought,” says Christine Rollins, a junior mechanical engineering major. “Before this trip, I wasn’t considering looking into a career in the auto motive industry. I am definitely excited and plan to pursue a career in the auto industry after seeing the wide range of opportunities that I can have. This trip opened my eyes to the growing industry.”

Sophomore mechanical engineering student Hannah Bailey gave an enthusiastic “Yes” response when asked if the trip had changed her opinion about working in the automotive industry. “It made it seem like a ton of fun. Everyone we met inside the industry had a genuine belief that things are changing for the better.”

One of those insiders was Tony Cooprider, a 1986 electrical engineering alumnus who is senior technical leader at Ford. He took considerable time to meet with the Rose-Hulman student group.

“He was insightful,” says Tracy Older, a senior mechanical engineering student. “Things are moving at a rapid pace in the auto industry, especially in the area of automatous vehicles. Technology is leading advances in all automotive areas.”

The purpose of the Inforum event, according to officials, was to illustrate the breadth of the automotive industry and its range of careers—from engineers to accountants, finance, and marketing.

“Engineers are needed to keep up with the integration of ideas and crossing of specialties,” Rollins says. “Also, female engineers are needed to address the increasing needs of female customers in the marketplace.”

Other students taking advantage of this special opportunity were Katherine Czaplicki, a senior mechanical engineering major; junior mechanical engineering students Salonee Gupta, Meleyna Kistner, and Ashley Loy, and Heather Knapp, a senior optical engineering major. The group was escorted by mechanical engineering professors Ashley Bernal, PhD, and Zac Chambers, who is director of Rose-Hulman’s Advanced Transportation System program.