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A view from industry: alum enjoys serving on college’s advisory board

Greg Ringkamp BS EE ’81, far right, is the manager of distribution planning and asset performance for Ameren Missouri, and also serves as a member of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Industrial Advisory Board. Shown with Ringkamp are the Mizzou Engineering alumni who work with him in Ameren Missouri Energy Delivery Technical Services, from left, Mike Lazalier, BS IMSE ’79; Matt Haffer, BS CE, ’01, and MS CE ’02; Josh Ketner, BS MAE ’02; Josh Skelly, BS CiE ’01; Craig Boland, BS IMSE ’79; and Ringkamp. The group is pictured at the new Ameren Missouri Central Substation, under construction in the city of St. Louis, not far from Ameren’s headquarters.

Early in high school, Greg Ringkamp decided that he wanted to be an engineer, and he knew he wanted to go to the University of Missouri to get his degree.

“I wanted all of the activities associated with a large, Division I school. In addition to the engineering curriculum, I wanted to go to Big Eight football games — that was when Warren Powers was the coach — and I wanted exposure to all of the different people in different disciplines for a broader educational perspective,” Ringkamp said adding that his varied experiences at MU have benefited him in both the technical and management aspects of his career.

After graduating in 1981 with his degree in electrical engineering, Ringkamp’s first job was in corporate engineering with a beverage company. However, he said, he wanted to work in a field with a broader impact, so he transferred to a job with Union Electric (the predecessor to Ameren Missouri), where he has worked for 29 years.

“Electricity is so important to our modern way of life,” he said. “Providing electricity is a critical piece of the even broader energy industry, which is a great career field with many needs for technical skills.  “I try to spark that interest in these fields in the younger people I talk to.”

Recruiting students for Ameren at a College of Engineering career fair, Ringkamp was approached by Noah Manring, department chairman of electrical and computer engineering (ECE). Manring invited him to join the department’s Industrial Advisory Board. Ringkamp agreed to serve and has enjoyed the chance to have a hand in the future of the department.

“Noah is a great listener. He wants our input and he takes our advice and uses it,” Ringkamp said. “It gives us such a sense of accomplishment. I know I speak for the entire board when I say he is a great leader. We enjoy working with him.”

A project the board initiated that Ringkamp is most proud of is the establishment of specialty curriculum tracks within the department.

“Electrical and computer engineering are so many different things and we wanted the curriculum to give students a flavor of what they wanted to do,” Ringkamp said. “Each student gets an adviser based on the track they pick.”

The board agrees that employees are more productive and happier if they are prepared for the job for which they are hired and companies that hire engineers are pleased when students can demonstrate that they can do the work.

“The power and energy track has the highest number of students,” he added.

Ringkamp currently works in St. Louis as the manager of distribution planning and asset performance for Ameren Missouri. He and his team are responsible for developing projects, specifications and processes to maintain, upgrade and expand the electrical distribution system — to provide safe and reliable energy.  Ensuring electric service reliability for customers is a key component of his work.

“We are constantly evaluating our electrical distribution system. If there are issues with outages, we work to improve them. As electricity usage increases, if there are needs for expansion, we develop projects to accommodate the growth.” Ringkamp said.

“This summer, with temperatures that reached 108 degrees, was a true test of our system, and it performed very well,” he said.

His work group, which is comprised of engineers from multiple disciplines, also develops construction standards and material specifications that Ameren designers and field crews use to build overhead electric pole lines and underground installations.

He said that among those working with him in Ameren Missouri Energy Delivery Technical Services are several other Mizzou Engineering alumni, including Craig Boland and Mike Lazalier, who both completed bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering in 1979; Matt Haffer who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering in 2001 and 2002, respectively; Josh Ketner, a 2002 graduate of mechanical engineering; and Josh Skelly a 2001 MU graduate in civil engineering.

One of the things Ringkamp most enjoys about serving on his home department’s IAB is the opportunity to serve on the panel that each semester talks to students about engineering.

“The engineering curriculum is very challenging, and I like to provide encouragement. Our board members hope that the panel discussions give the students a better perspective of what their daily work might be like,’ he said. “You want to encourage them to stick with it, because there are jobs out there.”

As proof, Ringkamp points to the fact that the average age of the energy industry workforce is 50-ish and adds that the electrical infrastructure that went up in the 1950s through the 1970s will soon need to be upgraded or replaced. And, he said, nuclear power is making a comeback.

“There will be a lot of opportunity,” he said.