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Paper engineering: Powered by opportunity and community

The box that your favorite snack comes in, the paper that you use for your work, the boxes that your deliveries come in, the toilet paper that was in all too short of supply at the beginning of the pandemic. These are just some examples of the vital role that paper engineering plays in our lives—and it plays an even bigger role for the companies who need to manufacture paper products or package another product for shipment. That’s where paper engineers come in.

Students Daniel Garreton and Lauren Cuddeback are two seniors in the program who feel prepared to enter the workforce and take on any challenge.

Paper engineering: Powered by opportunity and community

“Being a student in the paper engineering program has beyond a doubt helped me grow into the person I am today,” says Garreton. “When I graduate from WMU, I will be able to confidently enter the paper industry and tackle the challenges presented to me as an engineer. This confidence comes from the opportunities the program gave me during my time here. The technical trainings in class and the events hosted through the Paper Technology Foundation have contributed positively to my personal and professional growth.”

Garreton’s most impactful experience in the program has been the annual TAPPI Student Summit field trip, where he met engineers from the field while attending technical seminars about new developments in the industry. “The student summit helped me make high-value contacts within the industry,” he says. And the opportunity helped him land an internship in Toronto in the summer of 2020. “The TAPPI Student Summit has built friendships and memories that I will always cherish.”

A supportive network is something that Lauren Cuddeback has found in the program as she has pushed herself to be the best engineer she can be. “When you are a student in the paper program, you become a member of the ‘paper family.’ I have received immense support from fellow students, faculty, and the Paper Technology Foundation. Our program provides opportunities for students to develop both technical and professional skills. From hiring and networking events, to conferences, to industry experiences, students enter the workforce prepared. Personally, I am grateful that I have been a part of a unique program that has helped me make lasting friendships, establish connections with industry professionals, and become a confident engineer!” 

As a student employee at the Paper Technology Foundation, Cuddeback has seen firsthand the work that goes into creating networks with pulp and paper industry companies in order to provide students with opportunities to get work experience during their time in the program. “I believe that my co-op and internship experiences have had the biggest impact on my success,” she says. “I was able to take an eight-month process engineering co-op at Verso Corporation making coated paper (magazine, comic, and book paper) and a summer internship at Kimberly-Clark making toilet paper. Both experiences have solidified my love for engineering and paper! I was able to get excellent hands-on engineering experience in the field, which really facilitates a better understanding of the curriculum.”

Upon graduation, Garreton plans to find work in the chemical sales industry for several years, with the goal of paying off his student loans within two years. He also hopes to create a music studio that he would run with his brother in his off time. A lifelong music enthusiast, he has a second major in multimedia arts technology, where he has been able to embrace his passion for audio. Embracing both fields and balancing them is his goal going forward.

Cuddeback is committed making sustainability the center of her career post-graduation. “My career goal is to work for a company that is at the forefront of exploring new and innovative ways to create environmentally friendly products. I am excited to take part in making the industry as green as possible.”

Both Garreton and Cuddeback are scholarship recipients and have been able to pursue more professional development and enrichment opportunities because their scholarships have freed them up from the constant pressure of having to find ways to pay for tuition. They have both had the chance to be campus leaders and pursue their purpose because donors have provided these scholarships.

“The paper engineering program here at Western is truly one of the best in the world thanks to all the help from our donors,” says Garreton. “Without this help, the community created would not be the same.”

Cuddeback echoes this, “A donation to the program leaves a lasting legacy and investment in the future leadership of the pulp and paper industry. Each donation makes a significant difference in the lives and overall success of students! The paper engineering program may be a small, but our impact on the future of the world and the industry is massive!”