The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Engineering Students Meet with Their Raytheon Peers

In October, employees from the Raytheon Company met with 17 College of Engineering female and minority students to give them a first-hand crash course in the culture of industry and the value of diversity in the corporate setting. James Chang, a member of the Raytheon Asian Pacific Association, George Bamfo, who is from the Raytheon Black Employee Network, and Mary Ellen O’Donnell, vice-president of the Raytheon Women’s Network, gave our students their insiders’ perspective on their Raytheon experience and offered our students their leadership and mentoring advice.

“I thought the students would find this kind of partnership incredibly valuable,” says Shelly Perdomo, the director of our Diversity Programs Office, “to have industry partners they could talk with informally. This kind of mentoring setup will be especially helpful to our students when they reach a point when they’re ready to apply for internships, co-op jobs, or fulltime positions in industry. There’s no substitute for having real people, who come from similar cultural backgrounds, give them smart advice about their careers.”

Members of the college chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers attended the meeting with Raytheon employees.

“Students sort of look at industry members the way they look at faculty,” Perdomo jokes. “As another species. They really need this kind of personal contact to find out how human they are.”

The informal meeting also included Raytheon employees Robert Smith and Michael Thornhill, who were instrumental in setting up the partnership with Perdomo. A member of Raytheon’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement is also expected in future meetings.

“Our students were really surprised with how much Raytheon was doing to cultivate these organizations,” says Perdomo. “What hit home for our students was hearing from these Raytheon employees how much their company has supported them individually and their organizations in general.”

One of the topics discussed was the disconnect between academia and industry and bridging that gap. There was an interrelated conversation about holding a workshop to help our students understand the culture of industry. Bamfo, for example, talked to our students about the importance in an industrial setting of oral and written communications skills. He said that engineers are sensational innovators. But, in order for them to inform their constituencies and market their innovations, they need to communicate what they do in the lab.

“That was very important for our students to hear, especially from an industry member,” says Perdomo. “It really sticks. I found these Raytheon employees genuinely interested in mentoring our students and preparing them for the future as professional engineers.” (October 2010)