Emerging leaders represent Domtar, Neenah, Inc., and WestRock

TAPPI is pleased to announce the selections for this year’s Young Professionals of the Year awards. The contest recognizes aspiring young leaders in the paper, packaging, tissue and related industries. Eligible nominees can be up to age 35 with no more than 10 years of industry experience.

The five winners of the Young Professionals of the Year awards for 2020 are:

  • Peyton Clifton - Engage on TAPPI Connect
    MECHANICAL PROJECT ENGINEER, DOMTAR
    A 2017 graduate from the University of Tennessee, Clifton holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering. As lead project engineer for a cost savings- and safety-driven project at his mill, Clifton developed a passion for reliability and long-term profitability. He hopes to someday bring his talents to a role as maintenance and engineering manager. As an Eagle Scout, leadership comes naturally to Clifton; he already mentors an entry-level engineer at his mill, and volunteers with his local United Way.


  • John DeJarnette - Engage on TAPPI Connect
    SENIOR RESEARCHER, WESTROCK CORPORATION
    DeJarnette’s research work has focused on advancing paperboard product performance and developing new pulping, bleaching, wet end chemistry, and refining techniques. As part of the Tres Barras project team, he earned the 2017 WestRock Innovation Excellence Award for fiber science contributions. DeJarnette’s analysis of mill process information to determine the impact of refiner plate performance on PM quality resulted in a US$500,000 potential cost savings for his mill. He is an Eagle Scout who continues to support Scouting in his community, among other service activities.


  • John Edwards -Engage on TAPPI Connect
    OPERATIONS SUPERINTENDENT, DOMTAR
    “Making a positive impact on people” is a driving force for Edwards, an NCSU graduate who was instrumental in recent water reduction efforts at his mill. He is already a respected leader at his mill and aspires to continue to develop his leadership skills to serve as a mentor to others. Edwards is a staunch contributor to his community and his church, and serves as secretary of TAPPI’s Papermaking Technology and Operations Committee.


  • Natasha Melton - Engage on TAPPI Connect
    SENIOR RESEARCHER, WESTROCK CORPORATION
    At WestRock, Melton has worked to develop aqueous coating solutions for paperboard, ranging from graphical print quality enhancement to development of new and sustainable materials for barrier performance in packaging. She graduated cum laude from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology. Melton led the Richmond Women of Science and Engineering Diversity and Inclusion team; served as guest speaker at Virginia Commonwealth University, discussing the pulp and paper industry; and led the “Pathways to Science” event, mentoring Hispanic high school students interested in STEM careers.


  • Nika Wanserski - Engage on TAPPI Connect
    SHIFT SUPERVISOR, NEENAH, INC.
    As a shift supervisor, Wanserski strives every day to solve problems and develop engineering solutions. She is fascinated by both the business and operational aspects of the paper industry, and hopes to eventually serve as a VP of operations. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wanserski triple-majored in Paper Science, Chemical Engineering, and Spanish, with minors in Biofuels and Chemistry; her hard work earned her the 2016 PIMA Student of the Year Award. She is dedicated to safety leadership on the job, and to community service in her free time.

2020 YPs of the Year award.png

The award recognizes Young Professionals in the industry who have made significant contributions in these areas:

  • Leadership
  • Community Service
  • Problem Solving Contributions to Scientific or Engineering Projects

In addition to being recognized in TAPPI’s various publications and online, the winners are invited to attend their division-specific TAPPI conferenceto receive their award and are granted one full year of TAPPI membership.

TAPPI congratulates the winners and thanks all of the Young Professionals who submitted nomination forms. 

About TAPPI Young Professionals Division:
The Young Professionals Division is composed of TAPPI members that are college undergraduates, recent graduates and young professionals in the industry.  The division provides a wide range of products, services and educational opportunities, as well as a means for experiencing different professional areas, resources for career advancement and the chance to network with peers and industry professionals.

About TAPPI:
TAPPI is the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries and publisher of Paper360°, Tissue360° and TAPPI Journal. Through information exchange, events, trusted content and networking opportunities, TAPPI helps members elevate their performance by providing solutions that lead to better, faster and more cost-effective ways of doing business. It has provided management training and networking to the industry’s leaders more than 100 years.