The IPC Student Chapter network has been a wonderful program, allowing students interested in pursuing a career in electronics manufacturing the opportunity to connect with industry members. These connections are important for knowledge-share from a technical and career aspiration perspective because individuals can enter the industry through various paths. The IPC Education Foundation developed this program to equip students with opportunities that will allow them to benefit personally and professionally. Hannah Nelson serves as the chapter president at Valparaiso University and was elected as a representative to serve on the IPC Board of Directors. She anticipates graduating in 2023 with her electrical engineering degree.
In this interview, Hannah shares with me some valuable tips to ensure student members are engaged and participate in the many benefits the chapter program offers its members.
Charlene Gunter de Plessis: What steps did you take to start an IPC student chapter on your campus?
Hannah Nelson: I started our IPC student chapter in the summer of 2021 when a couple of our students and our advisor reached out to me to take on a leadership position in our IPC student chapter. When COVID happened, our chapter completely fell off, so we were starting completely from scratch. My advisor told me to contact the IPC Education Foundation about how to get re-started, so I did. We executed some events, and they helped me host a kickoff event. From there I reached out to our student senate, and figured out a budget, constitution, and bylaws to help execute some of those events.
In terms of recruitment for leadership in the chapter, I talked to others in my major courses and across campus. In my activities, I preached about the benefits I had already seen through IPC. I also put up several different advertisements throughout the college of engineering.
Gunter de Plessis: That's fantastic. The key is you were proactive; you went and spoke to people on campus to connect the dots. This enriched you and at the same time brought something valuable to your fellow students. That is part of being a leader amongst your peers. Your chapter advisor seems to have played a very important role. What is the role of the chapter advisor? What is the importance of having that support specifically on your campus?
Nelson: I believe a chapter advisor is there to help educate and encourage their students to take on a leadership role in their chapter. My advisor wanted us to be fully student-run. For us to take complete charge and create our own events, contact our student organizations on campus, and see what our peers were interested in. He gave us some advice but was not the sole leader in our organization. He had us help take a role in that organization and provided those contacts to help the organization grow.
Gunter de Plessis: What role can the advisor play in terms of sending messages to fellow students in the engineering department, or is it mainly word of mouth? How did people learn about your kickoff event?
Nelson: My advisor had a lot of contacts in the college of engineering. Many professors were able to promote extra credit opportunities in their classes if a student attended our event. I told several classmates and friends how it has helped me, and that it could help them too. We wanted to create events they would be interested in because as college students, our time is incredibly valuable. We're at one club one minute and then we're at class the next minute and then homework like 12 hours of the day.
Gunter de Plessis: Tell me about the types of chapter activities you have done and have planned for the next semester.
Nelson: Last fall we limited it to two events as I worked with our student senate and advisor about how we wanted to grow our chapter. For our kickoff event, the IPC Education Foundation came to our school and talked more about how they could help, as well as the types of activities we could run in our chapter. At another event, which I really loved, we made our own 3D-printed Christmas trees. We soldered them and then got to take them home. It got people excited about the electronics industry. Moving forward, I plan to host several women-in-STEM events. I hope to get speakers from Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and IBM who will speak and encourage other young women to get into the electronics industry. I’m also planning a soldering event for high school girls. We will teach them how to solder as well as gain those professional and development skills before they enter the real world.
Gunter de Plessis: In terms of being an IPC member first and foremost, what benefits spoke to you and to members of your chapter?
Nelson: What’s so beneficial about IPC is the networking. Even before I got into the emerging engineer program or the student board director program, I was able to network with several individuals within the industry. Wendy Gaston connected me with several local companies to coordinate events with them. I talked to IBM, Honeywell, and Lockheed Martin, gaining their insights and mentorship. It completely changed my life and the development of my professional career. I like the courses that IPC provides to learn more about the electronics manufacturing process. It’s not part of my curriculum here and I had no idea that it was a part of the industry. It has helped me know what I want to do this year. The scholarships are incredibly beneficial. I was paying for college on my own so having a scholarship meant I didn’t have to spend so much time working to pay for school.
Gunter de Plessis: Being part of IPC as a student member means you have opportunities to connect with the industry and to network. Each of our student chapters are in a place where we have IPC members serving the industry in their backyards and they are looking for talent. Accessing some industry-related content that is not necessarily covered by your curriculum is a bonus because you can speak the language that the industry folks need. That makes an interview for an internship or a co-op or job so much easier.
As part of the chapter leadership, what plans are you making to ensure that your efforts will continue once you graduate and move on?
Nelson: Most College of Engineering organizations have their elections in the spring, and we planned to have ours at that time as well. But a friend suggested to host our elections in December, so I am still here to provide guidance and make for an easier transition. This is now our plan, and we’ll promote it through our advisor and our college of engineering social media.
Gunter du Plessis: That makes perfect sense. Besides the pandemic, what struggles have you had in getting more interest in your chapter?
Nelson: I believe the biggest struggle was retaining talent because students often belong to several organizations. That could be things like dance marathons, IEEE, IPC, etc. So, what makes our organization stand apart from the others? I think it was in planning the events. We asked students, “What events would you go to? What will help your professional and technical development the most and is worth your time?” To help promote recruitment and retention, we will be at the university’s student organization kickoff event. This is mainly for freshmen who have no idea what our organization is about. We want to get them excited about IPC.
Gunter du Plessis: In terms of chapter leadership, one person cannot do it all. What kind of support do you have to plan and coordinate these chapter operations?
Nelson: This is the hardest part for me because I'm someone who loves to be super proactive and take charge of everything, but I've realized as a leader that I can’t do it all. I learned to delegate some of the responsibilities. For example, our vice president does the communication with high schools or in bringing speakers to our school. Our secretary writes up the minutes for our meetings and helps coordinate events within our college. Our public relations chair helps promote our events, and our treasurer allocates our budget and makes sure we get the funding we need from the student senate.
Gunter du Plessis: Excellent. You have five leadership positions. Being part of a team and mastering teamwork is beneficial and adds key skills to your resumé. Do you feel serving as a student leader on your campus adds to your professional profile?
Nelson: Yes, absolutely. I've completely changed since joining the IPC Education Foundation program. I've expanded my network, and improved my leadership, professional, and technical skills. It's incredibly beneficial. It helped me in my internship this past summer with Caterpillar and even on other organizations that I'm a part of on campus.
Gunter du Plessis: That’s wonderful news. The IPC Education Foundation exists to support, help, and grow students interested in pursuing careers in the electronics manufacturing industry. Hannah, you are a true ambassador for the Foundation, and IPC. We are thankful for your time and for being a true leader.
If anyone is interested in starting an IPC Student Chapter, please reach out to us. I know Hannah would be more than willing to share her thoughts and her ideas. Hannah, do you have any final thoughts?
Nelson: The one thing is just to be there and promote your chapter. Do what you're incredibly passionate about and others will see it. If you have a passion for IPC and everything that they're promoting, others will see it. It is a great way to recruit more members to your chapter.
Gunter du Plessis: Thank you, Hannah. That's great advice and we appreciate you. Good luck with this start of the semester and we will talk soon.
Hannah: Thank you, Charlene.
Charlene Gunter du Plessis is the senior director of the IPC Education Foundation.