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Department’s traditions carry on through generations

Many engineering students’ first introduction to the field of engineering came from a family member. For some, not only is the tradition in engineering being carried on to the next generation, but also is following in family members’ footsteps at the same school. Such is the case for two families with roots in MU’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department (IMSE).

The Ehlers family

A family with three 20s-age daughters, one late-teens son, a mother and a father sit on a rock for a group photo taken in Hawaii.

A tradition at MU runs through the Ehlers family, which includes siblings Katie, BS Acc ’10, M Acc ’10; Kara, BS AF&NR ’06, MD ’10; Kurt, a current IMSE student, and Kristin, BS IMSE ’08, MBA ’09; as well as parents Sandy and Jim, BS IMSE ’80. Photo courtesy of Jim Ehlers

Senior Kurt Ehlers had more than one person from which to learn about MU’s IMSE program; he had three: his father, Jim, his older sister, Kristin, and an uncle, Thomas Van Goethem.

Kurt said he recognized his interest in industrial engineering before high school, knowing that MU would be a place he could study the subject. The program wasn’t new to him. His sister had just earned her bachelor’s degree in 2008 and was one of the first students to earn her MBA through IMSE’s dual BS IE/MBA program. His father graduated from the department in 1980.

Jim, who went on to earn an MBA from Rockhurst University, is now a technical manager for Hallmark Card, Inc., a company he’s been with for the last 17 years. He first learned about industrial engineering during his freshman year when, as an undecided engineering student, he explored all the disciplines, and “IE jumped out at him.”

While engineering was his career field, he said he encouraged his children to pursue what interested them the most.

“I always told them engineering is a good field to go into, and they would all be good at it, but I never pushed any of them,” he said.

Kurt and Kristin both said engineering wasn’t abundant everyday, but it came up once in a while. They remember attending “take your child to work day” events at Hallmark with their father, and both told stories about their father’s love for efficiency.

“My dad was always the one who would pack the car for a trip,” said Kristin, who now works as a senior project manager for Enterprise & Mission Assurance at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Kansas City Plant, which is operated by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies. “He would visualize the space to fit the most cargo.”

“As a kid, when a problem would come up, my dad would ask me to solve it, and then try to get me to find a quicker way to a solution,” Kurt said.

Kurt is president of the IMSE honor society Alpha Pi Mu and is the recipient of the department’s 2013 Outstanding Senior award for IMSE. He said he plans to carry on his family’s tradition of graduate studies and earn his master’s degree in industrial engineering plus his MBA.

The Perz family

A family with three teenage daughters, a teenage son, a mother, father and grandmother stand in a group photo.

The Perz family includes Lauryn, a current IMSE student (left), and her siblings Johnny, Michelle and Lindsey; mother, Cathay and father, Kevin, BS IE ’81 (right), and grandmother. Photo courtesy of Kevin Perz

Senior Lauryn Perz said her mother has a rule when it comes to her father talking about numbers.

“When he tells us a story, my mom has a rule that he has to stop after three numbers,” she said.

That love of numbers was what created the perfect blend of engineering and business that Kevin Perz found most appealing. He said he heard about industrial engineering after a family friend, who had a background in the subject, suggested he pursue that discipline.

“I always wanted to go into some type of business. IE lends itself to that as an engineering degree. It was perfect for me,” he said.

Kevin earned his bachelor’s degree in 1981. He co-owned his Kansas City-based business, Dynamic Fastener Service, with his brother in the 1980s and has been the sole owner since the 1990s. In that time, he expanded the business to include seven distribution offices across the country, including more than 100 employees.

“I attribute a vast majority of my successes to my IE degree,” he said.

Lauryn, who is the oldest of her siblings and the first to go to college, said while her father was able to give her tips and advice on choosing an engineering discipline, she found her interest in industrial engineering since coming to MU.

“I knew I wanted to go to a big state school, so for me, it was either MU or KU,” she said. “All of my friends were going to KU, but I wanted to try something different.”

Originally, Lauryn said she wanted to study architectural engineering — a discipline not offered at MU — so she explored civil engineering. Unsure if she wanted to continue in that field, she looked into industrial engineering.

“I really enjoy ergonomics — looking at calculating forces and how they apply,” she said, adding that her father was “pretty pumped” when she chose industrial engineering. “He thought it was the best.”

Aside from class, Lauryn also participates in MU’s student chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Mizzou Engineering Student Council, the Society of Women Engineers and MU Engineering’s new women’s engineering sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon. After graduation, she said she wants to pursue a job in industry.