Engineering Student Finds His Motivation
A paper manufacturing facility can be intimidating to an undergraduate engineer. It’s a mega-machinery, hard hats, safety vests and steel-toe shoes type of environment, covering nearly a square mile. But it’s where a USC chemical engineering student found his motivation.
“I didn’t get really excited about engineering until I started working at the plant,” says Garrett Hunt, a senior who is getting real-world experience at a leading paper producer in Charleston. “Working as a process engineer intern at KapStone® Paper has shown me what the industry is all about and has given me the passion for engineering.”
Paper manufacturing is a unique engineering environment Garrett explains. A facility like the one in Charleston is comprised of a paper production area, a pulp mill and a chemical recovery system. On top of that, the mill requires a tremendous amount of energy, so there’s a small power generating plant on site.
“Once I started working I realized that I wasn’t passionate about paper itself,” he recalls, “but the troubleshooting — the day-to-day problem solving and teamwork that goes into such a large manufacturing process.”
The co-op gives Garrett access to the entire operation and the opportunity to experience textbook theories in action, he says. “When I returned to campus, one of the first assignments in my process dynamic and control class was to read a chapter and answer a few questions at the end of the section. After reading the questions and skimming through the material, I realized that I knew it. I’d learned it during my co-op.”
A native of Virginia, Garrett isn’t the first in his family to work in the paper industry. His grandfather was a purchasing manager for a mill. And when he told his grandmother about his three-semester co-op, her response was overwhelmingly positive.
Working with counselors in the USC Career Center Garrett was able to secure his co-op and stay on track academically. “The staff showed me how to stay on course towards graduating on time.”
More than simply enhancing his classroom learning, this experience is Garrett’s opportunity to absorb what industry professionals know and gain insight that only comes from getting his hands dirty. His co-op also gives him a competitive advantage. “A year of job experience is reassuring,” he says with confidence. “I’ll have more career choices as I approach graduation.”