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The traditional internship for a Paper Science & Engineering major will likely include collecting samples, wearing PPE, engineering projects and producing good quality paper products. But is there anything else a paper science intern could do? Personally, I wanted to understand as many different avenues and experiences in paper as possible.

My journey so far….

My name is Winslow Gurney and I am a junior in PSE with plans to declare a business minor. I am from Stoneville, NC, a tiny old textile town thirty minutes north of Greensboro, NC. Much like when I graduated high school, I thought about all the possibilities the world held for me, and realized my view was too broad.  Therefore, I narrowed it down and asked myself, what are the possibilities at NC State, which lead me to paper science. Paper is such an interesting industry that many people just don’t think about.  I often hear about paper being a “smelly” industry, but it is so much bigger than that and I’ve only touched the surface of this industry. I felt like I was missing out on the many avenues that paper offered, so after my first internship as a process engineer for WestRock in Covington, VA,  I attended an Early Career Development summit and met with interns from all across the company. It broadened my “paper” view and from that interaction, I was sparked to ask….. what else is out there in the world of paper?

Procurement Co-op?

Currently, I am working for WestRock at the Richmond,VA corporate office taking a procurement co-op under the raw materials division…..and only recently did I really understand what all of that meant. When I was originally given this opportunity, I had to look up the industry definition of procurement. So what procurement does is utilize a company and all its assets as a whole, to purchase or procure the material in which they desire. My hands on experience definitely helped me understand procurement through the projects I was assigned. It is a very different experience than being in a mill. My projects in procurement relate to the cost reduction and avoidance within each chemical category . Even though both internships are very different, they are both a vital part of an organization.  Both experiences have expanded my knowledge and skill set.  I have truly enjoyed both of my experiences! Understanding multiple sides of our industry allows for better communication as a whole, and the bottom line, at the end of the day, is that both organizations are trying to achieve the same goal.

An Honest Day’s Work

When I started this job, I attended training to understand what was required from a corporate position, the process used to complete projects and work within. Unique to this job is the pace, it is both a fast and slow pace at times. Projects often have a very long term view, but things are happening everyday that require attention. One project I am working on is looking at the current state of the market for certain chemicals.  These chemicals are under contract for the next year or so, yet the project I am working on moves at a very fast pace and continues to grow in importance. As a process engineer, my mindset is to keep the paper machine running efficiently while producing quality paper, all day, everyday. Another advantage gained by this unique experience is the broadened view of a company.  Tunnel vision can happen to anyone in any field, however when you are constantly dealing with assets that lie all over the country, you are forced to have a wide view.

Overall, I think that there are many opportunities within the paper industry that are not commonly thought about, and sometimes as students, we just do not know about them…. and if you don’t ask you will never know.

By guest blogger: Winslow Gurney