WPPF Holds 47th Annual Meeting

The Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) recently held is 47th annual meeting and banquet on Thursday, May 26. The event was highlighted by the Foundation awarding its most prestigious honors to Gary Jergensen (PSE, ’72) with the year’s “Outstanding Alumni Award,” and to Dr. Tom Wolford for his induction to the WPPF “Wall of Fame.”

Tom Wolford, center, was honored with a spot on the WPPF Hall of Fame.

Dr. Tom Wolford, center, was honored with a spot on the WPPF Wall of Fame.

After opening the day with a board meeting and luncheon, this year’s attendees participated in a comprehensive poster session by BSE’s graduating seniors, with projects featuring accomplishments in papermaking and the production of polylactic acid from wheat straw. Following the poster session, attendees toured the Paper and Bioresource Science Center, where students were running the program’s paper machine to make “Ol’ Dawg Bond.” (If you want some unique paper for an event—such as for invitations—contact Kurt Haunreiter in the pilot lab to see if our students are available for the job!)

The day wrapped up with a social hour and banquet at the University Club, where Gary, Tom and SEFS Director Tom DeLuca were recognized.

Learn more about WPPF and its legacy of support for students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program!

Photos © Juliet Louie and SEFS.

Attendees interact with BSE students during the poster session.

Attendees interact with BSE students during the poster session in the Forest Club Room.

 

Undergrad Spotlight: Samantha Mendez

For someone about to graduate with an engineering degree, SEFS senior Samantha Mendez got hooked on her program through a surprisingly mundane product: a popcorn bag.

Sam grew up in Sacramento, Calif., until she was 13, when her family moved to Spokane, Wash. That’s where she attended part of middle and high school, and it’s also where she met Tom Wolford, executive director of the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) at the time.

Tom was giving an info session on the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program at SEFS, and one of his demonstrations—involving that popcorn bag—struck Sam immediately. Tom spoke about how something as ordinary and overlooked as that bag was the product of a lot of people spending a great deal of time making it perfect. Sam liked the buzz about scholarships and internships and job opportunities, too, but she found the popcorn story particularly entrancing. “That was my first introduction to the industry, and I really liked it,” she says. “It was a turning point for me.”

Sam and her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam with her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam graduated high school in the spring of 2011 and enrolled at the University of Washington the next fall. The summer after her freshman year, she decided to take some classes at a community college back in Spokane. She wanted to catch up on a few prerequisites—including linear algebra, differential equations and organic chemistry—and she ended up extending at Spokane Falls Community College for the whole next year before returning to SEFS in 2013.

As soon as Sam settled into the BSE program, everything clicked. She felt at home with the small class sizes and close contact with professors, and she loved knowing all of her classmates by name. She got involved in the UW student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), including attending the 2015 TAPPI Student Summit in Savannah, Ga., and serving as chapter president this past year. She spent countless hours working with the paper machine in Bloedel Hall, attended PaperCon this past May in Cincinnati, Ohio, and also gained tremendous hands-on experience through several internships.

Her first was a three-month stint with the Ponderay Newsprint Company just north of Spokane in the small town of Usk, Wash. Sam worked as an engineering intern and got to assist with a range of projects, from statistical analysis and validation of testing equipment, to helping reallocate jobs for the workers. Her schedule involved four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, while she stayed at her aunt and uncle’s place along the Pend Oreille River. She’d come home after work, go for a run and then jump in the river to cool off. Then on Fridays, she’d head to her parents’ home in Spokane and work about 20 more hours over the weekend at an orchard. “It was really fun, and I learned a lot,” she says.

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

The next summer, she started what would become a 15-month internship with NORPAC in Longview, Wash. Working about 50 hours a week, Sam spent the first nine months on the paper machines, and then six months in the pulp mill.

Now, in a week she will head to Ashdown, Ark., for her third and final internship—this time with Domtar as a process engineering intern. WPPF had invited Domtar to campus earlier this year for an info session, and Sam scored two interviews and then a job offer in the same day.

She thoroughly enjoyed everyone she met with the company, and she’s looking forward to her first experience in the South. She’s also keen to work for a company that’s launching a new fluff pulp machine (used primarily for diapers). “It’s a rare opportunity to get to start up a new machine,” she says. “That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Perhaps the best part about this internship—like the two before it—is that it is fully paid. In fact, between her internships, the Del Rio Environmental Studies Scholarship she won her freshman year, and other WPPF support, Sam has been able to pay for most of her education. That’s a fairly remarkable achievement in today’s college environment, and Sam will head into her Domtar internship for what is essentially an extended interview process, with the potential to stay on permanently.

Before she leaves SEFS for good, though, Sam has one course to complete this fall with Professor Rick Gustafson. But first, she will be walking with the 17 members of her class at this Friday’s graduation as a worthy send-off for so many years of studying and working so closely together. “It’s such a great group of students,” she says, “and I’m proud and excited to be walking with them.”

Photos © SEFS.

Sam (back middle) and some of her BSE classmates.

Sam (back left) and some of her BSE classmates at the WPPF banquet on May 26.

 

Next Tuesday (2/2): Résumé Café with UW TAPPI!

Have interviews coming up? Attending any job fairs? Want to stand out from the crowd? The UW Student TAPPI Club has you covered!

This Tuesday, February 2, they’re hosting is hosting a BYOM—as in “bring your own mug”— résumé café at 4 p.m. in the Forest Club Room. Mike Roberts, executive director of the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation, will be there to give the DO’s and DON’Ts of professional résumés.

All SEFS students, grad and undergrad, are invited, and TAPPI will have snacks and hot cider on hand. Contact tappi@uw.edu if you have any questions; otherwise, don’t forget that mug, and come boost your résumé!

2016_01_Resume Cafe

Job Placement Paradise

For college graduates, the triumphant feeling of earning an undergraduate degree doesn’t seem to last too long these days—or at least not nearly long enough. You barely have time to pop the cork and celebrate before the stress of finding a job can turn high fives into handwringing and headaches. Headlines about the job market, after all, have been rather ominous. Hiring is sluggish. Budgets are pinched. Open positions are gobbled up by people with a dozen more years of work experience. In short, unpredictability reigns.

But not all graduates are feeling that sense of dread and uncertainty. In fact, commencement remains a season of opportunity for students earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Papermaking Lab

Working in the paper lab at SEFS.

Graduating with a BSE degree has resulted in essentially 100 percent job placement—and with an average salary of roughly $66,000. So basically every BSE graduate who has sought a position in the field has found one. That’s an impressive success rate, and it speaks volumes about the value of the BSE program.

Formerly called Pulp and Paper Technology and then Paper Science and Engineering, BSE was established as an accredited engineering degree program at the University of Washington in 1965. It’s one of only eight programs in the country that offers a concentration involving paper science and bioresource conversion (and the only one west of the Mississippi River). The curriculum is possibly best described as applied chemical engineering with an emphasis on the conversion of forest and bioresources into paper, fuel and chemicals. Students enjoy a wide range of hands-on classes, ranging from actually making paper to producing biofuels, and they often land entry-level positions as process engineers, technical sales engineers, and research or production engineers.

The firms recruiting these graduates represent a wide range of industries, including pulp and paper manufacturers, chemical manufacturers, process and computer control companies, and engineering design companies. They come from communities across the Pacific Northwest and around the country, as well as from international locations.

BSE Students

BSE students work on their formulas for the next paper run.

Since 1968, the nonprofit Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation has worked to connect these firms with highly qualified technical graduates who understand and are dedicated to the industry. Housed within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the Foundation is comprised of member companies, alumni and friends, and its work linking students with potential employers has been highly effective: Of the nearly 500 students who have graduated from the BSE program, about 80 percent have chosen careers in the pulp, paper and allied industries.

Mike Roberts, executive director of WPPF, grew up in Aberdeen, Wash., and graduated from UW. He’s watched the original pulp and paper focus expand and evolve to include biofuels and other applications, but the practical value of the degree has never changed.

“As students and employers have come to realize that our forest and bioresources are truly renewable, the support of our program and the desire to hire our graduates has steadily increased,” says Roberts. “We count on the support of Foundation members, BSE alumni and program friends to continue our scholarship and placement mission.”

For students concerned about what to do after graduation, that kind of job placement success can offer a real opportunity.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

WPPF Names New Executive Director

by William McKean

As some of you may know, the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) recently conducted a search for a replacement for Tom Wolford as WPPF executive director. In early January 2013, we widely advertised the open executive director position through the WPPF mailing list, the University of Washington (UW) system and the TAPPI mailing list. Our joint outreach resulted in more than 20 applicants with a broad range of backgrounds, and I am very grateful to everyone who participated in this search process!

Michael Roberts

Michael A. Roberts

On March 5, representatives from the WPPF Executive Committee, College of the Environment and SEFS staff, BSE faculty and BSE students conducted interviews and evaluated the top five candidates. After careful review, we selected Michael A. Roberts as the next executive director, and we are very pleased to share the good news that he has accepted the offer! Not only has he accepted with considerable enthusiasm, in fact, but he has already begun working to continue the various activities outlined in our five-year plan, as well as planning for our upcoming Annual Conference on May 23. Mr. Roberts will officially take on his new role on April 1, 2013, and he is already set up with his campus email.

Mr. Roberts is a 1969/71 graduate of the University of Washington with BS/MS degrees in Chemical Engineering. His research provided insight into the mechanics and formation of malodorous compounds in a Kraft recovery furnace. Prior to joining WPPF as executive director, he spent more than 40 years as a professional in the pulp and paper and allied industries. He has held significant operational, engineering, environmental, research and general management positions for both pulp and paper manufacturers and key service providers to the industry. Most recently he was employed as the Program Manager, Energy and Sustainability Management, for a global manufacturing firm. He has been active in WPPF for more than 20 years and served as foundation president from 2006 to 2008.

Mr. Roberts and his wife Barb, also a UW graduate, have two grown children and three granddaughters. All are confirmed Husky fans.

Please join me in welcoming Mike as the new executive director–we look forward to working with him!