In December of 2018, Jade Zoern became one of the first two female graduates from the mechanical engineering program at UW-Stout.
The program, UW-Stout’s fourth undergraduate engineering program, was added in fall 2015 after approval by the UW System Board of Regents. Enrollment has grown to more than 400 students in mechanical engineering.
After graduating, Zoern was hired as an industrial engineer at the Andersen Corp. distribution plant in Menomonie. She has transitioned to a manufacturing engineering position at the company’s manufacturing facility in Menomonie.
The university caught up with Zoern, originally from Owatonna, Minn., to see how she has been enjoying her career and how UW-Stout helped prepare her for success. She lives in Menomonie with her husband, Alec Zoern, who also is a UW-Stout alum.
How were you hired by Andersen, and what do you do?
We decided to stay in Menomonie after I graduated, so that is when I began the search for positions at local companies. Shortly after graduation, I started at the Andersen distribution center as an industrial engineer, which was feasible because mechanical engineering is a broad major that opens many opportunities.
Over 2½ years at the distribution center, I found my passion for manufacturing by procuring packaging-on-demand equipment. I was given the opportunity to follow my interests and transitioned to the Andersen Menomonie manufacturing plant as a manufacturing engineer. I have now been at the plant for more than a year.
My job entails a wide variety of tasks. Most importantly, I support three production lines and ensure they all run smoothly each day by troubleshooting machines that may be down. I also procure machines and equipment, design processes and lead large projects.
What do you enjoy about your career?
I enjoy that every day is different because I have many different types of projects on my plate. I also enjoy problem-solving while troubleshooting machines because at times it is a challenge to find the root cause. I led projects to procure two pieces of equipment where the new processes yielded significant annual savings.
How well did your UW-Stout education prepare you for your career?
I felt extremely prepared after leaving Stout and entering the workforce. Not only was I capable of doing my job, but I gathered team leadership, communication and negotiation skills through achieving my degree. The hands-on learning has played a huge role in my success as an engineer because it has allowed me to better understand the mechanics of the machines I am physically troubleshooting.
Knowing what I know now, I would choose Stout again. Not only was I set up for a bright future in engineering, but I made lifelong friends, met my husband and fell in love with Menomonie all because of attending Stout.
What stands out about your experience as a UW-Stout student?
I was in only the second semester of graduates in the mechanical engineering program. Because the program was so new, the average class size was 10 people. I feel very lucky to have the 1:10 ratio in my core classes. It was a very personal learning experience.
Now that I have experienced the workforce myself, I like to reflect on my time spent at Stout and pinpoint key classes and experiences that prepared me for the role I am currently in.
You returned to campus during the Spring Career Conference to recruit for Andersen. What did you enjoy about that experience?
I really love seeing all of the students and talking with them about their experiences at Stout. I am blown away at how rapidly the major has grown and am very excited about the advances in the engineering department at Stout.