Alumni Spotlight – Kristen Young ’19

Kristen Young

Kristen Young graduated from NC State in 2019 with dual degrees in Paper Science and Engineering and Chemical Engineering, she also earned a minor in Business Administration.  She currently works as a Process Engineer with International Paper (Riegelwood).   We recently reached out to Kristen to find out about her experiences since recently graduating from NC State, and what advise she would pass on to current students.  Thanks for your time Kristen.

Experience at NC State

  •  Internship/co-op experience: RockTenn – Florence, SC Linerboard Mill – Fall 2014 (Pulp Department),  WestRock – Florence, SC Linerboard Mill – Summer 2015 (Paper Department)
    WestRock – Florence, SC Linerboard Mill – Summer 2016 (Power Department), Voith – Appleton, WI Press Felt Manufacturing Plant – Summer 2017, International Paper – Franklin, VA Fluff Pulp Mill – Summer 2018
  • Favorite class: CHE 330 – Chemical Engineering Lab I, IDS 210 – Introduction to American Studies, MIE 330 – Human Resource Management,  PSE 335 – Principles of Green Chemistry
    PSE 371 – Pulping Process Analysis, PSE 475 – Process Control in Pulp and Paper
  • Best memory at State: I was the lead singer in a praise band with a campus ministry for six years, during which I had the chance to record for an album and sing in churches across North Carolina.
  • Worst memory at State: For most my life, I genuinely believed that I could learn and understand any subject whatsoever. When I took CHE 311 (Transport Processes I) for the first time, I felt completely lost and confused. I questioned for the first time in my life if I was really capable of becoming a chemical engineer, so I dropped out of the class to preserve my own mental health. I decided that I would attempt the class once more and determine, based on that experience, if I was willing to continue with the chemical engineering curriculum. Dropping the class delayed my graduation, but I never regretted that decision. With a different professor, I performed well in the class during the second attempt, and I was reassured that I could overcome whatever challenges come my way.
  • Clubs/Hobbies:  TAPPI, Mu Beta Psi (National Honorary Musical Fraternity), Raleigh Wesley Foundation (Methodist Campus Ministry), College hobbies: singing, playing video games and traveling
  • Favorite part of PSE program: The PSE program is not just an academic program, it is a family that consists of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other supporters. When college brought challenges, the paper science engineering program provided me with a haven. Faculty and staff members knew me on a personal level, and I interacted with alumni and other supporters on numerous occasions. I introduced my birth family to my chosen PSE family on my graduation day, and my birth family was amazed. They realized that they chose wisely to trust the PSE program with my career as well as my well being.
  • Most important thing PSE taught me: PSE taught me that success in my career is not all about having technical skills and working hard. The program gave me the technical knowledge I need but also encouraged me to develop other skills, such as working on teams, presenting, problem solving, and networking.

Current Career Information

  • Company/job position: International Paper (Riegelwood) – Process Engineer
  • Years at current job:  June 2019
  • Favorite part of the job: My favorite part of my job is spending time with a variety of individuals. I frequently feel that I can meet an incredible coworker everyday, and I make it my daily goal to make someone smile. It can seem that there is too much to accomplish at work, so I may be busy each day, but I try to take the time to get to know those around me. As a new engineer, my personal reward for investing in others is the ability to learn from coworkers with decades of experience.
  • Biggest accomplishment in career: Honestly, I feel that my biggest career accomplishment in the months that have passed since graduation is the personal brand I have established. Multiple people have made comments to me about how they always catch me smiling, and they appreciate that I have that attitude. Those comments have made me feel accomplished because I believe that smiles are contagious, and I have tried to be deliberate about smiling around coworkers, even when I am feeling down. Thus, the feedback I have received from others has demonstrated that I am achieving a personal goal of mine.

Advice for Current Students

  • My advice is to be open-minded and bold. You will never know which opportunities will fulfill you the most if you are not willing to try options that are available to you. It is normal to doubt yourself at times, but you can accomplish incredible feats with hard work and the willingness to ask for help. Go for it!

Personal Information

  • Hometown: Wilmington, NC
  • Hobbies/Interests: Singing (Contemporary Christian), reading (action and horror novels), sleeping, traveling (destinations in 2019: Michigan, Spain, Ohio, Florida, Dominican Republic, USVI, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Georgia, West Virginia

Additional Comments 

  •  I genuinely cannot imagine what my life would look like if Jennifer Piercy had not contacted me several years ago about the PSE program. Though joining PSE seemed like a good option for an extra engineering degree and for scholarship opportunities at first, it became so much more. I will always be grateful for Jennifer, Pat Hill, Paula Harrod, Brittany Hayes, Dr. Byrd, and all the faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and others who have supported me throughout the years and who will continue to support me throughout my career. One notable individual that I will remember with gratitude is Jeff Reese, who had a major impact on many people within the Wolfpack family and paper industry and who demonstrated amazing dedication and determination. Overall, I am thankful for the PSE program, and I am thrilled to consider what my career will have in store.