Paying it Forward; It’s what we do!
ALUMNI – Join us for Upcoming Events
No Two Paths are the Same: Paper Science & Engineering
Mary Johnson Elliston – Alumni Spotlight
Hands-On Industry Workshop at NC State, June 6-10
“TAPPI – It’s the MAINE Thing”
By Manon Macallister
Mary Elliston graduated from NC State in 2005 with a degree in Paper Science and Engineering. She currently works as Human Resources Manager at Sonoco Products in Hartsville, SC. We recently reached out to Mary to find out about her experiences here at NC State, her current career, and advise for current students.
Experience at NC State
- Internship/co-op experience: One co-op and three internships with Sonoco Products Company at four different locations.
- Favorite class: The Senior Papermaking lab taught by Dr. Heitmann where we would run the pilot paper machine. It was awesome to be able to produce paper from pulping to the finished product, and to be able to brag to my friends “look what I made in class!
- Best memory at State – I played intramural flag football with the Papermakers (the student TAPPI team) during my freshman year. We were the runner-ups for the intramural flag football championship at NCSU that season, but the first place team wasn’t able to attend the national intramural flag football championship game in New Orleans so our team got to go and represent NCSU. We took a road trip to New Orleans and unfortunately lost in the first round of the national championship, but we still had a great time!
- Worst memory at State: I was sitting in Economics 201 my freshman year when someone came in the class and told us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. After class we all went to Talley Student Center to watch the news (this was pre-smartphone era!) and we saw one of the Trade Center towers collapsing. I remember this horrible feeling thinking about how many people must have been in the building, and having that horrible feeling over and over as details of the tragedy continued to unfold.
- Clubs/Hobbies: I was very active in the student TAPPI chapter (was president my senior year), I played intramural flag football, I was a College of Natural Resources Ambassador, and was a Work Study Student for the PSE Department. I was also an avid tailgater for football games and learned how to fry a mean turkey!
- Favorite part of PSE program – I really enjoyed the close-knit community that makes up the PSE program. I felt like everyone in the department was genuinely invested in the success of every student and I left with not only a great education, but also lifelong mentors and friends.
- Most important thing PSE taught me – To be a logical thinker! I really learned the process of stepping through problems in a logical way, and using data to help drive the next decision. This has been such a valuable skill to apply during my career.
Current Career Information
- Company/job position: I work for Sonoco Products Company where I am the Human Resources Manager for their Hartsville, SC manufacturing complex. I recently took this role in September 2015. Prior to that I was the Production Superintendent at Sonoco’s recycled paperboard mill in Holyoke, MA.
- Years at current job: I have worked for Sonoco for ten years. I’ve been in my current role for six months. Prior to that I was Production Superintendent for 6 years, and prior to that Process Engineer for 4 years.
- Favorite part of the job: The fact that I have never had a boring day at work! There is always some challenge that comes up during the day, and supporting manufacturing gives me a sense of pride in that I helped“make something “ that day.
- Biggest accomplishment in career: When I was the Production Superintendent at the Holyoke paper mill we broke two significant mill records. One was the record for the most consecutive days without an injury, and the other was the record for the most consecutive days without a sheet break. I was so proud to be part of a team that recognized the importance of both safety and production, and demonstrated it through high performance.
Advice for Current Students
- When you’re making your employment decisions, take time to research the culture of a company to see if it will be a good fit for you. I know it’s easy to focus on the paycheck as the most important factor; but you will find it’s easy to be passionate about your job if you fit well with the culture of a company and that can be equally rewarding!
- My husband Ronaldo and I will celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary this August (we met and got married while I was working at the Holyoke, MA mill). He has earned the husband of the year award for keeping me sane while I uprooted us to move to SC a few months ago! We have one daughter, Elizabeth, who is 4 and she already knows the words to the NCSU fight song.
- Hobbies/Interests: Trying to keep up with a very energetic 4 year old is my main hobby! Lizzy and I enjoy watching NCSU football/basketball games on TV and she loves to try to spot Mr. Wuf during the games. We enjoy taking family trips, including traveling to Jamaica every other year to visit my husband’s family there.