By Dave Durocher, IEEE Senior Member and dedicated IEEE volunteer.
The IEEE core purpose is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. No other IEEE group serves to support this bold purpose more than the IEEE Foundation. One unique example that seeks to engage the next generation of engineers serving the North American Forest Products Industry began in 2007.
The IEEE Industry Applications Society’s Pulp & Paper Industry Committee (PPIC) worked together with the IEEE Foundation to establish the James A. Rooks Memorial Student Intern Fund. The Fund was named in honor of the late James (Jim) Rooks who was an inspirational PPIC volunteer leader with a passion for encouraging young engineers to become members of the industry community. The goal was to financially support college student interns working for pulp & paper mills, to attend the annual IEEE Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Conference by subsidizing travel, living and registration costs.
Initially, funding from IAS helped get the program moving forward, but soon there were donations from hundreds of individual PPIC members as well as producers, consultants and supplier companies serving the industry. Large corporations including International Paper, Weyerhaeuser, Eaton, and others enthusiastically supported the Fund, understanding this to be an opportunity to engage the next generation of engineers to support the industry.
In 2007, the first year of the new James A. Rooks Student Intern Program, three interns received support to attend the annual conference held in Williamsburg, VA, USA. In 2015, thanks to the continued generosity of the PPIC community, the purpose of the Fund expanded to support additional initiatives designed to encourage the participation of students and young engineering professionals in the pulp and paper industry.
During the most recent IEEE Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Conference held in Spokane, WA, USA in June 2023, two student interns and six young engineering professionals, the highest number of participants in any year, received support.
IEEE James A. Rooks Young Professionals recipients pose with PPIC volunteers. Pictured left to right:
Chris Heron, PPIC Vice Chair; Mark Zawadzki, PPIC Chair; Kyle Reilly, North Pacific Paper Company; Preston Strong, Billerud; Timothy Seaman, Billerud; Chris Lathouwers, MEGI Engineering; Jory Goehner, MEGI Engineering; Elizabeth Herrin, Rayonier Advanced Materials; Emily Held, PPIC James A. Rooks Student Intern and Young Professionals Chair.
Since inception of these programs, more than sixty-five student interns and young engineering professionals have received support in the memory of James A. Rooks. This is an impressive investment in the next generation of technical leaders helping to assure the future of the pulp and paper industry. Jim would be proud.
Curious to learn about other donor supported programs designed for the next generation, explore the Opportunities for Student and Young Professionals webpage.
The main image includes IEEE James A. Rooks Interns with PPIC volunteers. Pictured left to right: Chris Heron, PPIC Vice Chair; Mark Zawadzki, PPIC Chair, Evan James Fountain, University of North Florida student working at Rayonier Advanced Materials, Fernandina Beach, Florida; Gauri Gaur, University of Idaho student working at Clearwater Paper Corporation, Lewiston, Idaho; and Emily Held, PPIC James A. Rooks Student Intern and Young Professionals Chair.