Tiffany Simonik once traveled the country, helping others fulfill their high-speed dreams as an instructor with the NASCAR Racing Experience.
She has pit-crew skills, too, and moved to North Carolina when she was 19 to earn a certificate in Automotive Technology from the NASCAR Technical Institute. She learned about metal fabrication, welding, engineer repair and aerodynamics, and raced herself.
But a checkered flag awaits the end of every race, and Tiffany returned home to the Southern Tier. One of two winners of this year’s Vanguard Award, which recognizes students in fields considered non-traditional by gender, Tiffany has embarked on a new dream – designing engines and other automotive components for the transportation of the future.
“You definitely have to have a certain type of brain to do technical work,” she reflected.
Both her parents had worked at Sanmina in Owego while she was growing up, and Tiffany developed an interest in technology and mechanics at a young age.
At SUNY Broome, she is a dual major in Mechanical Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technology – and is often the only woman in her class. She tries to blend in and “be one of the guys,” although some factors have inevitably set her apart: She had her daughter, now a toddler, while enrolled as a student. Her professors were very accommodating to her as a parenting student, something Tiffany appreciates.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve really missed New York,” she said of her experience at SUNY Broome. “My professors are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, and they’re more than willing to help you out with anything personal or school-related. I really love it here.”
Professors who made an impact include Diana LaBelle and Dirk Elliott; they teach many of Tiffany’s classes.
Tiffany enrolled in Fall 2016, and estimates that she’s about “60 percent done” with her coursework. Once she graduates, she plans to apply for jobs at BAE Systems or Lockheed Martin, and eventually pursue her bachelor’s degrees in Engineering Science online.
Growing up in the area, she heard a lot about “Front Street High,” but SUNY Broome bears little resemblance to high school, she found. Rigorous academics are preparing her well for her field. An added plus: Many of her classes are in the new Paul & Mary Calice and Mildred Barton Advanced Manufacturing Center, which features new, state-of-the-art equipment for the college’s STEM programs.
“My program has been incredibly challenging,” she said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations.”