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Leaders in the Making

IR CommitteeLilly Myers, a junior in Chemical Engineering from Prairie Village Kansas, knows a thing or two about event planning, just ask any of the 400 companies or thousands of students who benefitted from the 2014 Industrial Roundtable (IR) at Purdue University last fall.

The IR, as it's known by the members of the Purdue Engineering Student Council (PESC) who host the event, is among the largest student run job fairs in the country.

That's pretty impressive when you consider that Myers, the IR director, and a team of eight students, including three other chemical engineers, Louis Perkins, Hannah Cook and Courtney Kelly, were in charge of organizing the entire roundtable. And that's on top of their demanding course loads.

"Over the summer I would dedicate at least an hour every night to doing IR things. And then getting back to school it was pretty constant. Just the week before IR I think that's all I was doing," Myers says. "Things kept popping up out of nowhere. Every day there was some new crisis that I had to deal with for IR that took all of my attention!"

IR was started 35 years ago by PESC as a means to make money for other events. Companies pay for booth space at IR. They also sponsor scholarships and seminars associated with the event.

"PESC's motto is serving students, serving faculty and serving industry," says Myers. Because the organization doesn't charge students for many events, the money from IR is used to support those activities.

Planning IR is a long-term commitment. Myers started her work as director of the IR committee in January 2014 after she interviewed for the position and was selected by PESC's executive committee.

"I really knew that I wanted to be IR director. I had been on the committee the year before as registration coordinator," she says. Myers was selected over three other applicants. Her committee members showed just as much determination. PESC members rank which committees they would like to serve on. "Typically if you're going to be on IR it should be your first preference because it is a lot of work and we want people who are going to be dedicated," she says.

Once the committee is formed, the work really begins. The facilities coordinators work with Purdue to assign spaces and set up booths. The hospitality manager coordinates breakfast and lunch for the more than 1,600 company representatives that will be on hand and organizes discounted rates at local hotels. The programming coordinator schedules the companies who are giving seminars and works with Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities to make sure companies can schedule job interviews with students. The registration coordinators update the IR website and solicit and compile company registrations. And that's just in the first few months. There are still programs to design and print, tents to rent and a myriad of other details and deadlines to see to.

"Our number one goal is to provide as many opportunities for students as possible," Myers says. To that end she and her committee reached out to students early in the planning process to find out which companies they really wanted to see at IR.

"We tried to contact a lot of those just off of student requests and obviously just thinking what are the big names that we know attend other career fairs that students would be really excited about seeing."

Obviously chemical engineers aren't the only students at IR. The event is geared toward engineering students first and foremost, but science, management and technology students also attend. To make things easier for the company representatives, each of the students who register are given a color-coded name tag.

"It really helps the reps know who they're talking to," Myers says.

The quality of Purdue Engineering graduates also plays a role in the popularity of the Industrial Roundtable. Small details like color-coded name tags, free lunch and well thought-out information packets keep companies coming back year after year.

Myers isn't the only Chemical Engineering undergraduate who has taken on a leadership role.

Senior Austin Tackaberry of Roscoe, Ill., serves as the 2014-15 Chair of the AIChE Executive Student Committee. In May 2014 he began overseeing more than 200 student chapters spanning 20 countries. As Chair, Tackaberry already has established a leadership structure within each region and is working on raising adequate funding to send all Executive Student Committee Members to their respective Regional Conferences as well as the International Conference each fall.

For the second year in a row Senior Stephanie Lueders of Stevensville, Mich., directed Winterization, a mega-service project associated with Wesley Foundation at Purdue. This year more than 1,400 volunteers from the Purdue community helped rake leaves, clean gutters and windows, and winterize more than 260 homes for senior citizens and other homebound individuals. Last year the project included around 1,300 volunteers.

Alexis Brannan, a sophomore from Dublin, Ohio was director of PESC's EXPO career fair in Mackey Arena this February. Similar to the Industrial Roundtable, EXPO brings together company representatives and students looking for jobs, internships and co-ops. It also features seminars and scholarships. This year's EXPO included 174 companies, the largest number in EXPO's history.

With such stellar student leadership, it's easy to see why Purdue Chemical Engineering graduates are so sought after. They truly are leaders in the making!