Senior Julianne Wagoner Named Co-op Student of the Year

Wagoner will pursue a career at ExxonMobil after graduation

Chemical engineering senior Julianne Wagoner worked hard to balance work and school when she served as a co-op student at Honeywell UOP. The four-year journey was not easy, but in the end it gave her hands-on experience as a process engineer and set her up for a new career in scheduling and logistics at ExxonMobil. Recently selected as McCormick’s 2014 Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Student of the Year, Wagoner sat down with the Office of Career Development to talk about work/school balance, professional goals, and “Totally Twisted Tubing.”

How did the alternating schedule of work and school affect you personally?

Julianne WagonerAlternating between school and work [gave me] hands on experience that I would not get in class. I could actually see the connection between what we learned and what I was doing. Coming back to class reminded me that there was always something more to learn in school, even though it was harder to get back into homework mode after having evenings free when I was on the job.

Is the workplace as forgiving as school? How does the environment differ?

The workplace is less forgiving, but that’s why co-op is so great. They know that you’re a student, so someone is there to help guide you and train you before allowing you to work on expensive equipment or run a project that could affect the safety of a lot of people. In school if you don’t do well, you get a bad grade, but no one’s safety is at stake.

Much of your work has an underlying theme of working with youth. Can you talk about the “Take Your Child to Work” program at UOP?

I got involved in the program at the urging of my supervisor Glenn Ekwall who wanted his co-ops to get to know UOP better by talking to the children of employees. During my first summer with the project, I assisted with part of the program that took place in the pilot plants, which is where I worked. I was only supposed to help with the tours, but I found myself revamping the script and designing hands on activities. When it came to plan the event that would occur during my second rotation at UOP, I volunteered to lead the entire program, expanding my involvement to encompass the lab and business units. This gave me the opportunity to meet people across the company. The result was a program that served more than 80 kids and the development of hands on activities like “Totally Twisted Tubing,” a model plant that I built out of clear plastic tubing filled with colored water. It gave the children a taste of working in the pilot plants.

Three-quarters of graduating seniors report that they’ve completed at least one internship during their time at Northwestern. Have you seen or felt an increase in the interest of co-op?

The vast majority of students I have met throughout my years at Northwestern have been interested in working through co-op or internships. It has always seemed to me that these opportunities are more beneficial to the student than the company, and other students seem to share this suspicion. Through my five years with the Society of Women Engineers, it seems like a lot of people are seeking work opportunities, and there is a lot of pressure to find an internship or co-op.

What’s next for you professionally?

Through my co-op as a process engineer at UOP, taking economics classes at McCormick, and earning a Kellogg business certificate, I thought that a career in finance would be a better option for me versus continuing as a process engineer. So I worked for Goldman Sachs last summer. While there, I realized that I would miss the creativity and dynamism associated with engineering. So I searched for a career with a balance of engineering and finance. I discovered that oil companies have their own trading departments that specialize in trading oil and energy futures and decided to join this department at ExxonMobil. During my first year with the company, I will work as a scheduler responsible for the actual movement and relocation logistics of their products. I will work out of the Washington, D.C. office with a move to the new Houston, Texas campus within one year.