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Student Spotlight: Kateyn Gyurich of Western Michigan

Kateyn Gyurich

KALAMAZOO, Michigan -- The Western Michigan University Paper Technology Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation founded by industry leaders in 1958.

The mission of the corporation has been and continues to be to support the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering at Western Michigan University. The Paper Technology Foundation's primary roles have been to recruit students for the paper and allied industries and support those students with competitive scholarships. In the last 10 years, the foundation has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships.

"The WMU Paper Engineering program is growing! We welcomed 40 new students last fall (largest incoming class in decades and the largest last fall among the paper schools) and will have 120 students in the paper program by fall 2024," said Cindy Gleaton, Recruitment and Outreach Specialist, Chemical and Paper Engineering at Western Michigan. "Due to our significant program growth, we are adding two new faculty positions to support student enrollment. Additionally, we are re-engaging with alumni through the Alumni Engagement Committee to support WMU Paper connections, including opportunities for participation in student mentoring, practicum offerings, scholarship gifts, and guest lecturing. The Alumni Engagement Committee also launched a new event- the Bronco Family Reunion on April 16."

Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Kateyn Gyurich, who is a sophomore in the program. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at Western Michigan.

What attracted you to the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering program?

I was attracted to the Chemical and Paper Engineering program because it had the perfect mix of innovation and sustainability. I have always been particularly interested in the push to switch from plastic products to fiber-based products and promoting recycling with everyday products.

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

I was initially planning on studying Environmental Science until I took a tour of the Engineering Building at WMU. During the tour, I was introduced to paper engineering, and I fell in love. It was similar to environmental science, but it satisfied the engineer within me that wanted to create new things on a chemical level.

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

Last summer, I was a Technical Sales intern for WestRock in Covington, VA. My projects included running statistical comparisons on digital printing paper, creating a customer service training document, and researching and documenting paper sheet defects. Through my projects, I was able to travel to many different paper converting locations and get a hands-on experience of what the printing process of paper is about. Next summer, I will be interning with Georgia Pacific's Research and Development group in Neenah, WI!

What does this program mean to you?

This program is truly like my family. I met my best friend through this program, and we even call some of the staff, Jen and Cindy, our "Paper Moms." I feel so supported by the Paper Technology Foundation, a board of paper professionals who contribute career advice and finances to the growing program. Even within the paper industry, it feels like such a close-knit group, and I have had so many opportunities to learn and grow as a young professional.

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

My plan in 5 or 10 years looks very similar to me. I hope to be doing something that I am passionate about and making a substantial difference in the paper industry with my research. My goal is to dive deep into the R&D field and create more fiber-based alternatives to plastic packaging. I also see myself working with anything sustainability related, whether it be with reusability of resources or water within the paper mill. In the end, whichever path I choose, I hope that it is something that makes me excited to wake up every morning.

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

I would recommend that you connect with everyone that you can. The paper industry is much more connected than you think it is, and everyone seems to know everyone. Always be kind to everybody that you meet, and never stop doing your best, because you never know what kind of opportunity may come around the corner. Also, get involved in the career fairs and TAPPI Student Summit! Those are great places to meet industry professionals and learn from them.

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

The paper engineering program is one of the most supportive programs I have ever experienced. I have received resume help, interview tips, connections with industry professionals, career path advice, student mentoring, and internship opportunities all within this program. All the people involved want to see every individual student succeed, and I feel the support constantly.

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

I am a sophomore in the paper and chemical engineering program. I grew up in a small town called Dewitt, MI, which is right next to the Michigan Capitol, Lansing, MI. In my free time I love to crochet, play board games with my friends, and rock climb. Fun fact: the biggest thing I have crocheted is a 5-foot-tall goose stuffed animal!


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