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Interview with UWSP Paper Science and Engineering Senior Marcie Nelson

Marcie Nelson

STEVENS POINT, Wisconsin -- The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Paper Science Foundation was organized in 1974 by the Paper Science Department Staff, along with industrial and business leaders.

The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point's Paper Science and Engineering program is committed to preparing students for successful technical careers in the pulp, paper and allied industries. This mission is accomplished by promoting excellence in instruction, undergraduate research opportunities, industrial internships, and involvement in professional organizations.

Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Marcie Nelson, a senior in the program, and we asked her a few questions about her experiences at UWSP.

What attracted you to the Paper Science and Chemical Engineering program?

The first filter I used while University shopping was the existence of a chemical engineering program. The next filter was in-state tuition, so this limited my options down to four schools: Madison and Stevens Point in Wisconsin, and the Twin Cities and Duluth in Minnesota. I toured each of these schools and narrowed the options down to Madison and Stevens Point.

Of course, Stevens Point was by far the most fiscally sound choice (it is the cheapest University in Wisconsin, after all). But what really stood out to me about Stevens Point was the opportunity to be personal with campus staff and faculty. I was able to meet with the Paper Science and Chemical Engineering program director one-on-one prior to accepting my admission; at other Universities I toured, I never met a faculty member. I desired a college that felt like a community, where I could develop close connections with my professors and peers that would allow me to learn from their experiences and have their support. In general, UWSP delivered me with this community I desired, especially with the intimacy of the Paper Science and Chemical Engineering program.

Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?

Absolutely not. Who knew that paper could be a whole major? I will say, however, that middle school me chose to test the wet strength of various paper towel and toilet papers for the science fair; it's ironic for me to look back on that experience with the depth of knowledge I have now. When I entered UWSP as a double major in Paper Science and Chemical Engineering, I had no idea what a complex and collaborative industry I was entering.

Tell us about the internships and/or co-ops you have had.

The summer following my freshman year, I joined Cascades Tissue as a Chemical Engineering Intern. At this point, I had taken one introductory paper class that carried me through that summer of my first manufacturing setting filled with paper industry-specific terms and practices. I found that I liked the industrial setting, the diverse set of projects I worked on, and I really liked getting to understand the process of repulping recycled paper and using it in furnishes.

After my sophomore year, I joined Voith Paper as a Fabric Design Intern. Here, I experienced industry even farther down the supply chain than a paper mill. I explored the many facets of Voith Paper including paper machine manufacturing, roll work, and fabric design; I spent a good chunk of time at the new Voith paper machine at Green Bay Packaging.

After my junior year is when I started breaking out of the paper industry. I was a full time research assistant in a synthetic organic molecules lab at UWSP, and presented this research at the National Organic Chemistry Research Symposium.

What does this program mean to you?

The Paper Science and Chemical Engineering program is where I have learned how to be successful in the manufacturing industry. The program's focus on paper offered me the unique opportunity to see how individual businesses in an industry are interconnected and how professional relationships benefit all involved. This program enabled me with the skills of self-advocacy, confidence, and professionalism.

Where do you see yourself in five and 10 years, and what are your career aspirations?

Upon graduation, I will be joining the worldwide oil and gas technology company SLB as a travelling field engineer. In this position, I will be leading cementing projects at oil rigs in the Colorado and Wyoming area. This position is meant to last up to five years, at which time I am able to choose where I would like to be and what job I would like to do for the company. I'm going to learn a lot in the following five years; I expect my goals and aspirations to change. I'm also interested in pursuing a graduate degree. However, I am certain that I would like to be involved in the development or deployment of sustainable energy. SLB recently launched a New Energy initiative, and the company is exploring its place in sustainable energy. I currently hope to be a technical lead in this initiative.

What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper?

UW-Stevens Point is widely referred to as "the Harvard of the Midwest" in the paper industry--seriously, this was said to me in more than one interview. The program offers hands-on papermaking experience in its courses, many tours of pulp and paper mills are available, and there are opportunities to connect with industry professionals not only in the Midwest, but across the nation. If someone is interested in getting into pulp and paper, UWSP is the natural choice.

Please let us know of anything else of interest about your experiences in the program.

There are so many opportunities available to be taken advantage of in UWSP's Paper Science and Chemical Engineering program, as well as at the University in general. I was a research assistant in three different research projects during my time here, and all of those positions were paid; this is almost unheard of for an undergraduate. I presented in two of the University's research symposiums, and one nationwide organic chemistry symposium. I was offered a position as a teacher's assistant in the introductory papermaking course, and the courses taken as a Paper Science and Chemical Engineering major made my skills invaluable as a STEM tutor on campus. The program offers even more opportunities that I never took advantage of, such as being a lab assistant in the process engineering laboratory or a member of the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Technologies (WIST).

Not to be overlooked are the opportunities for professional development offered in the program. I attended banquets and fundraisers with industry professionals, worked with industry professionals on the paper science senior design project, had tons of interview experiences at UWSP's paper-focused career fairs, and attended many conferences including local and international Society of Women Engineers conferences.

Please tell us what year you are in the program, your hometown, and anything interesting you might do in your free time.

I'm from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and I'm a fourth year student at UWSP graduating in May 2023! I have a lot of hobbies, but I spend a significant amount of my free time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity at their ReStore, building houses, or engaging in other community sustainability projects. I also enjoy having a drink and playing games at District 1 Brewing Company, going to the gym, adventuring and taking hikes on the many trails around Stevens Point, painting, cooking, playing with my ferrets, and doing at-home projects.


More information on the PS&ChE program, provided by Sheryle Tepp, Executive Director of

the Paper Science and Chemical Engineering Foundation at UWSP:

We have 101 students enrolled in Paper Science & Chemical Engineering this spring with a 24-student freshman class and 17 seniors graduating this spring. We are budgeting for $95,000 in scholarships this coming year but are on track to exceed that at $99,000.

Our 2023 Fall semester freshmen class appears to be reaching levels not seen in the program in many years - we currently have 86 students fully registered. While we do expect some students to change their declared majors before the semester starts, this represents a 30% increase over past year.

The Paper Science program has been in place at UWSP for 49 years. In 2007 the Paper Science Engineering program was accredited by ABET, and in 2019 the Chemical Engineering degree was accredited by ABET.


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