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Jennifer Piercy, a 1994 graduate from the Pulp and Paper Technology and Chemical Engineering programs at NC State, works within the Paper Science and Engineering program as the Director of Recruiting and Executive Director of the Pulp and Paper Foundation Advisor Committee. These positions allow her to have the unique experience of working with high school seniors newly admitted to NC State, and alumni, who are working successfully in the paper industry.

Jennifer has been in her current role in the PSE department since 2012.  Before that, she worked in industry making tissue with Procter and Gamble as a process engineer, machine manager, and department manager.  By maintaining contacts at NC State through the years, she stumbled across the job of recruiter and executive director when she was looking for volunteer opportunities.  Her two predecessors serving in these roles simultaneously, were Ray Smith and Ben Chilton.  The job description has evolved over the years and Jennifer likes to summarize her job in a manner that engineers can relate to as “dollars and students in the door.”

The “Why” behind giving back

Alumni relationship development is one of many important things Jennifer takes care of on a daily basis.  “It is important to make sure students have a good experience by ensuring they get to know faculty and staff to foster good relationships within PSE.”  Working hard to develop student’s relationships with the program while they are in school makes maintaining the relationship when students become alumni easier and more rewarding.  It is the reason why so many of the PSE alumni give back to the program, and stay in contact with the department.  Jennifer strives to make sure students understand that the money they receive from scholarships, and later give back to the program is used for supporting excellent budding engineers.  Understanding the philanthropy of giving back to the program that facilities students success is incredibly important and part of what makes PSE unique.

When asked about her favorite part of her job, Jennifer said, “The best part of my job is looking at students when they graduate and comparing that to where they came from when they entered the program.  Watching students develop over their years at NC State, and then talking to them as alumni is so rewarding. ”  The environment Jennifer helps create in PSE is what makes people want to stay involved with it, years after they leave.

The People or The Program

So, what is it that makes the our program so unique?  Jennifer believes, “It’s the people who make the program.  It’s just like the chicken or the egg, which came first?  Is it the industry that made the program what it is by attracting a certain type of person? Or is it the people that we put out into industry that helps make it so great? Because no matter where our career paths take us, there’s always somebody willing to help you re-enter the industry, change positions, or really do anything.”  The fact that the people who hired Jennifer for her first internship are still connected to her and the program, reveals what a small world the paper industry is, and the degree of its connections.

65 Years in the Making

Right now, the program is in an upcycle, and generally successful on all fronts.  Jennifer commented that “people ask me, ‘what did I do to help the program be where it is?’  It is not me, it is the visionary people who set up the program 65 years ago!  They laid the foundation for success and it is rewarding and humbling to carry on their work and legacy today.  Outsiders do not necessarily see the amazing legacy we have here.  I ask myself what I can do – so that 30 years from now – I have also contributed to the legacy of the program.”

We thank Jennifer for all that she does for PSE.  Her dedication and hard work is admirable and she forms part of the vital backbone to the paper community.

By guest blogger Taylor Krakuszeski