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First Person

Caitlin Hill

Junior, School of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering)

Caitlin HillMy name is Caitlin Hill, and I am originally from Ludlow, Vermont. I was offered this opportunity to tell you about my Co-Op assignment with GE Aviation and my amazing experience as an undergraduate in UVM's College of Engineering and Mathematics (CEMS).

I transferred to UVM from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania after my sophomore year. It was not an easy decision, but it did not take long for me to realize that I had made the right one. The opportunities that I have had in one year at UVM tower over the opportunities I had in two years at Lehigh. The relationships I have developed with my professors and the guidance I have received from them has been invaluable.

How did I end up in engineering? I have always been told to find a job I love. This seemed like something easier said than done, but I would give it my best shot. So, having loved math, science and mechanics since elementary school, I decided to major in mechanical engineering. I have enjoyed all of my classes, but I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like in the real world. When I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my degree, I realized that I had absolutely no idea.

The work world is different than school, but in what way? I will graduate with an engineering degree, but what will actually make me a good engineer? Will it really make a difference if I just skim that chapter in my textbook instead of reading it in full? These questions were answered for me on my six-month Manufacturing Engineering Co-Op with GE Aviation in Rutland, VT. I realized that I knew a lot more than I thought I did.

The classes I have taken proved very helpful when I was working with robotics to improve the efficiency of production or analyzing the surface finish looking for potential defects from a process change I was trying to implement. I was thankful for each and every project presentation I had been forced to do when I had to present my work and results to a room full of managers and the Vice President of Aviation Supply Chain. I gained a great appreciation for every course I have taken.

I also learned a great deal from GE. I now have substantial metal fabrication experience where, prior to my Co-Op, I had none. I know how much the slightest bit of inflation can affect a business and how to combat it. Most importantly, I learned that work can, and should, be fun.

Not only did I get the chance to see all of my hard work in class actually put to good use, I realized that there is so much more to an engineering education at UVM than you think. The small size of the College of Engineering and Mathematics has allowed me to have a close relationship with all of my classmates and professors. Learning to be comfortable asking for help from professors and collaborating in groups with other students is just as important as what we are tested on in class.

My Co-Op experience has changed my perspective in so many ways. My fears of being successful on the job have been eased. The remainder of my coursework will be tailored to new interests in fabrication techniques and manufacturing processes. I can't express how lucky I feel to have found that job so early in my life.

I now know what to expect when I graduate and what is expected of me. Thanks to UVM and my GE Co-Op experience, I feel prepared for the real world. So, go to career services, utilize your advisor and professors, and try a Co-Op or internship. Take advantage of every opportunity that crosses your path. You'll be glad you did.