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Record-breaking Engineering Expo fueled by alumni, spurs charitable giving to the college

September 14, 2017

In the photo, a young woman speaks with a representative from General Motors.
A total of 311 companies attended the 2017 Engineering Expo on Sep. 12-14, often sending representatives who are alumni of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. The largest Expo to date, the student-run job fair was spread throughout campus, from Squires Student Center to Owens Hall and Cassell Coliseum.

When Andrew Merewitz comes back to visit Virginia Tech, the 2012 computer engineering grad always hopes to bring some Hokies back to New York City with him. Now working as a software team lead at Bloomberg, Merewitz regularly attends the Engineering Exposition as a recruiter for his company.

“One of the reasons we keep coming back to Virginia Tech is because it produces very well-rounded students,” Merewitz said while at the 38th annual Expo. “Some of the classes here that require you to do group work, present your projects, and experiences that build upon soft skills are very helpful.”

Merewitz was one of hundreds of alumni who attended this year’s three-day event, which included two days of recruitment and an overlapping two days of interviews.

A record-breaking 311 companies attended the 2017 Expo — compared to 292 in 2016. Representatives from companies like NASA, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Ford, Boeing, General Motors, Newport News Shipbuilding, and more met with approximately 5,900 resume-wielding engineering students to network and discuss employment options like internships, co-ops, and full-time positions.

Unlike most career fairs at universities throughout the country, Virginia Tech’s Engineering Expo is entirely student-run. Student Engineer’s Council, whose executive board is made up of 14 students within the College of Engineering, plans and hosts the job fair and networking opportunity annually.

This year, the engineering students designed a better Expo experience. While one member of the board created a program that streamlined the registration process, other board members figured out a better layout to cut down on long lines.

Much of the efficiency of the event is owed to the leadership of Katrina Pelkey, industrial and systems engineering senior and the 2017 engineering exposition chair. Pelkey, who is a business minor, says she integrates her engineering and business interests to make Expo more efficient and profitable at the same time.

“In my interview back in October 2016, I told [the council executive board] my goal was to hit over 300 [attending companies],” Pelkey said. “I don’t want it to stop from here. We need to have our students getting as many opportunities as possible. There’s still places for us to grow.”

The Expo is the sole source of funding for the council. Attending companies pay a reservation fee or have the option to sponsor the event. Boeing was this year’s diamond sponsor, as in years past. Altria, ExxonMobil, Plasser American Corporation, Volvo Group Trucks, and Plexus Corporation were the platinum sponsors.

All proceeds are returned to the College of Engineering in one of three main avenues every year: the SEC’s $50,000 design team endowment, a $60,000 engineering organization fund, or through what’s known as the Big Contribution fund, which annually awards $30,000 to Virginia Tech professors.

“For me, the more companies we have, the more opportunities [there are], but also the increased revenue can go back to the students in more ways,” Pelkey said.

In the past year, approximately $240,000 was allocated to SEC’s philanthropic endeavors:

> $100,000 was donated to the Lynn Nystrom Engineering Organization Fund, which will fund materials, outreach events, and conference fees for student organizations.

> A one-time $50,000 donation was made to start an endowment for humanitarian projects.

> $30,000 went to the Big Contribution with $10,000 of that going to STEMability, a camp that allows high school students with disabilities and their families to stay on campus over the summer and explore STEM offerings.

> $60,000 went to the Engineering Organization Fund.

> Other funds were used to host the council's annual Leadership in Engineering Conference, the National Association of Engineering Student Council's North-Atlantic Regional Conference, and Engineers' Week events.

Written by Erica Corder

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