Students in the Tech Opportunities Program explored career paths in the Seattle area while connecting with successful Oregon Tech alumni.
Beginning a new educational style that leverages alumni knowledge, seven undergraduate students from Oregon Tech’s Tech Opportunities Program (TOP) participated in a tour of the Seattle area on June 19-22 that featured meeting with successful Oregon Tech alumni and highlighted potential career paths. The four-day trip provided students with valuable insights as well as the opportunity to make connections in their fields of interest.
The group of students, along with Michal Kawka, TOP program director, and Brianna Schwenk, academic specialist, toured Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and popular cultural spots on the four-day trip. In addition to site tours, students met in-person with area Oregon Tech alumni at each company and met with graduate students at the University of Washington to learn more about the options available for continuing education after they earn their undergraduate degree. Students also toured local sites including Pike Place Market and the Museum of Flight; met with representatives at Tesla to learn more about battery technologies; participated in a team building exercise at an escape room; and met with an engineer at iFly to learn more about the concept of drag force, terminal velocity and navigated those while indoor skydiving.
“To tour these companies and see the environment the alumni are in as actual mechanical engineers or graduates of computer software engineering technology helped me reinforce that I’m in the right place at Oregon Tech,” says Moises Cobain ’21, a mechanical engineering student from Lost River. “It helped me confirm that this is the degree that I want to do.”
Through Oregon Tech alumni, students received special access and tours. Alumni at Boeing such as Steven Martin (’10), production engineering manager; Bryan Durr (’89), senior manufacturing engineer; and Kealii Ribao (’15, TOP program participant), manufacturing engineer, spoke with students and provided them with a better understanding of the demand and supply of aircrafts in the aviation industry.
The students who participated in the trip were competitively selected and are currently studying computer hardware engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or renewable energy engineering. Each of the sites and alumni hosts detailed their own career paths and provided advice and information on getting started through internships and job opportunities.
Jonathan Kerlinger (’14), software development engineer at Amazon, provided an overview of his work at Amazon. He explained about his experiences at Amazon and how his degree is utilized.
The students also met with Microsoft’s Brady Jerin (’15), software engineer, and Brenna Duffitt (’15), software engineer, who talked with students about what career paths open up by studying electrical and computer engineering and how the discipline is important to today’s cutting edge products and technology.
“What stuck with me the most is when Kealii Ribao spoke about embracing failure and not being afraid to fail,” says Chris Ramirez ’21, who is studying mechanical engineering and is from Klamath Falls. “He [Kealii] was able to put himself out there more and that’s why he was able to get the position he has.” Kealii is a graduate of Oregon Tech’s mechanical engineering program and participated in TOP while in school. Moises also found inspiration from Kealii’s shared TOP experience, “I found it especially interesting that he graduated from TOP, and was able to become so successful at Boeing at such a young age. It inspired me to continue pushing and trying to reach my goals.”
This is the first alumni-experience trip TOP has organized, but the program organizes several cultural events and trip that allow students new academic and social experiences. Trips this year included a TEDx Conference in Portland and a Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
“Our goal with this trip was to help our students build career and academic self-efficacy by giving them the opportunity to interact with their peers who graduated from Oregon Tech,” says Michal Kawka, TOP program director. “We are focusing on innovative alumni working in creative fields, and we challenge our students to make connections between academic theory and real-world practice.”
The mission of TOP is to increase the college retention and graduation rates of its participants. TOP services include tutoring, mentoring, networking with other students, college success classes, academic advising, limited scholarship funding, workshops and cultural trips. For more information about TOP visit www.oit.edu/top.