After 12 years on the job, Jessica Elmore wanted to move her career to the next level.
This May, she’ll achieve that by becoming the very first graduate from SUNY Broome’s Manufacturing Technology degree program. Not only will her A.A.S. degree bolster her resume, but it will give her the opportunity to move into a specialist position at her long-time employer.
And her hard work has already paid off – both on the job and in the classroom, where she earned a coveted Vanguard Award. Administered by the New York State Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) Project, a program of the University at Albany’s Center for Women in Government and Civil Society, the award honors students enrolled in programs that prepare them for careers nontraditional for their gender.
“People were looking at me like, ‘Are you in the right class?’ In some classes, I was the only female,” she remembered. “There were some women in electrical engineering. I was the only one in mechanical engineering.”
The Manufacturing Technology degree is the second Elmore has earned at SUNY Broome. After graduating from Windsor High School, she headed to the college in 2003, the same year she began working at a local manufacturer. While she always had a knack for math, she followed the lead of her friends and majored in Liberal Arts, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human development at Binghamton University.
Through the years, she became interested in the high-tech operations involved in manufacturing and looked into an engineering degree.
“That seemed to call to me,” she said. “I’m really interested in the technology we use. It seems like we’re always advancing. In general, that’s where every company is moving.”
Engineering classes were different from her initial college experience, focused more on hands-on learning than writing papers. She adapted quickly to the new learning style, and tackled such subjects as statistical quality control, C+ program, robotics and more. Today’s manufacturing operations are more high-tech than the old days, using a large number of computer programs and other technology, she noted.
Her capstone project for her degree was more than just an intellectual exercise. It centered on reducing waste and looking for leak points in the product line – measures that her employer put into place.
“We saved quite a bit of money doing that,” she said.
Many students work while pursuing higher education and Jessica was no exception. In addition to being a full-time student, she also worked full time – on the third shift. Morning classes weren’t always available, so she muscled through with grit, determination and a good dose of coffee. She also had to attend a two-week training session for work, and was relieved when her professors worked with her to accommodate her schedule, allowing her to get ahead on her assignments.
Professor Joe DeAngelo, chair of Engineering Technologies, described Elmore as an excellent student, with a good deal of knowledge in her field.
During her time at SUNY Broome, she has served as a role model for her peers, helping those who may not have practical industry experience with classroom work, he wrote in his nomination of Elmore for the Vanguard Award. She’s also a role model for women, as most mid-level managers in technical groups are men.
“I always wanted to be a role model,” Elmore reflected on the Vanguard Award. “I think it’s okay to go for non-traditional careers. It’s definitely worth it, although you have to work hard.”