New alumni initiative launched by CHE Department
Each of the MU College of Engineering’s seven departments maintains an Industrial Advisory Board or Council made up of alumni and industry experts. The groups work closely with department chairs and faculty on accreditation issues such as educational objectives and curriculum. Their work is student-issue focused.They spend time evaluating capstone projects and sometimes offer basic yet essential services such as resume reviews and mock interviews.
“They are a working board of great value to students and the department, advising the chair on major initiatives,” said Baolin Deng, La Pierre Professor of civil and environmental engineering, and department chair in chemical engineering.
But there are other ways departments can benefit from alumni involvement, Deng said. After identifying additional alumni interaction priorities and with the blessing of the Industrial Advisory Board, he took the initiative to launch a Chemical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni, enlisting the help of alumnus Marty Rapp.
A 1981 graduate of chemical engineering, Rapp recently retired as Chief Executive Officer for Laird Technologies. With more time on his hands, he reached out to the MU College of Engineering, offering his time and expertise, and Deng took him up on it.
“I went to grad school for three different majors in two universities,” Laird said. “But my Mizzou undergraduate degree was the most transformative educational stage in my life.”
The two have been meeting over the last several months and plan to formally announce the academy in the fall and hold their inaugural event and induction ceremony in time for the department’s 110th anniversary.
“We want to recognize the achievement of successful alumni as well as their contributions to the country,” Deng said.
“We’d like this group to serve as role models for current students, giving them a group to emulate,” Deng added. “Success can be achieved in many ways.”
Rapp agrees, remembering his student days and how difficult it was to make career decisions.
“Even after deciding to pursue chemical engineering as a major, students still may not be clear about what chemical engineers do,” Rapp said. “They can be patent lawyers, teachers, process engineers … students just don’t know all the careers that a chemical engineering degree prepares them to pursue.
“Engineering is also a fantastic undergraduate degree for senior management positions in technology companies,” Rapp added.
Rapp said that a fresh outside view of industry expectations from successful alumni can help students be more successful.
Modeling the new organization after the MU Civil Engineering Academy, Deng and Rapp have been meeting over the last several months, writing by-laws and working to identify founding members. A call for nominations has gone out.
“Once the academy is formed, we will develop subcommittees to support students in a variety of different ways with things like scholarships,” Deng said.
The pair invites chemical engineering alumni to watch for the announcement of the department’s anniversary celebration and to help celebrate a new chapter in the department’s history.