|July 3, 2013|
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Paper science degree pays off for Miami grads
By Cliff Peale
(Editor's note: This article appeared on the front page of the local section in The Cincinnati Enquirer.)
100 percent job placement, average salary of $66K
Studying paper science at Miami University - yes, paper science - might not sound like the most thrilling subject for today's college student.
But if that student wants a job, it will do just fine.
Miami is one of only eight schools in the country to offer the concentration, with a track record that is crystal clear: Every graduate of the program finds a job. This year, the average salary for 11 graduates is $66,000.
"It's definitely a good industry to get into," said Shannon Wooliver of Anderson Township, who graduated from Miami in May and will start a job with Parker Hannifin Corp. in July. "They have 100 percent job placement. In today's market, that was a big thing for me."
Paper science at Miami is no longer a major. It's now a concentration within chemical and paper engineering. Students also can minor in paper engineering.
With about 75 students at Miami now, the program has hit the sweet spot that university administrators covet: Donations that fund scholarships, few competitors, internship connections with companies and a growing job market for graduates.
The crown jewel is a $3.5 million Paper Science and Engineering Foundation, funded by paper companies and alumni, that has paid out $270,000 to nearly 60 students this year. That's on top of any federal aid, Miami aid or private scholarships those students may have received.
"It worked out really well for me," said Steve Sena, a 1994 Miami graduate who now works in sales for Ashland Inc. "The promises just seemed so unreal. I didn't really believe them, but they came true. It's ready-made for someone to be successful."
The foundation is a legacy of the critical mass of paper companies that once populated the Miami Valley - dubbed "Paper Valley." While many of the paper mills have closed, the industry still has a presence here and the foundation feeds Miami graduates into that group of companies. In return, the paper companies get a steady flow of trained employees. Graduates typically work in paper plants or provide sales or service to the industry or to contractors.
As the job market slowly rebounds from the Great Recession, every college now touts the job prospects of its top academic programs to potential students, along with internship opportunities and study-abroad opportunities.
Engineering graduates consistently have the best track to high-paying jobs, earning salaries from $57,000 to $71,000, according to a recent survey of new college graduates by Employers Resource Association.
The lowest starting salaries are in liberal arts and sciences, communications and biological sciences, all with first-year salaries of less than $35,000.
At Miami, that divide comes to life most dramatically in paper science. Sena said while publishing and other industries that have relied on paper are suffering, companies that make and use tissues, toilet paper and boxes are stable and even growing.
Companies including International Paper and Georgia-Pacific are hiring dozens of engineers every year, Sena said. He sells specialty chemicals to companies including Procter & Gamble Co.
Wooliver will work in technical sales at Parker Hannifin, with the first few years spent in a series of far-flung offices. "It's kind of a gritty degree, but you make plenty of money," said Sena, noting time spent in hot and messy paper mills. "And there are opportunities for advancement."
Shashi Lalvani, the Miami professor who chairs the chemical and paper engineering department, called the private foundation "a great asset for us."
"The paper industry has been very good to us," Lalvani said. "And there are plenty of job opportunities for engineers who are graduates in this area."
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