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Erica Miller

After completing the Modern Manufacturing Work-Study program, Erica secured the position of Technician I at Stanley Electric US, Inc., a leading manufacturer of automobile lighting.

When she was still in high school, Erica Miller wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in when she got to college. “I was interested in a lot of different things – music, architecture, and engineering. I went back and forth about what I wanted to do.”

She explored programs in architecture, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Once she discovered the Modern Manufacturing Work-Study Program at Columbus State, she knew she had found her fit.

“What I really like about this program is that it combines electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, and I’m not locked into one path. So far, I’ve taken classes in engineering graphics, motors and controls, robotics…there are a lot of options once you finish the program.”

As an Electro-Mechanical Engineering major, Erica began the program taking a year of classes at Columbus State. Going into the second year of the program, students interview for a work-study position that, for Erica, led to a job servicing and maintaining robots and equipment at Honda. She will finish her associate degree working three days a week at Honda and attending classes at Columbus State the other two days.

“It’s great how what you learn at school and what you learn on the job build on each other,” she says. “They ask me to do things at work for the first time and I’m like ‘Hey, I know how to do this!’ The classes and lab work really teach you the basics so you can jump in when you get a job.”

Her first foray into engineering and robotics was in middle school, when she participated in the First Lego League. “As a kid I was always fascinated with figuring out how things worked. I really liked thinking through problems and evaluating solutions – and that’s exactly what I’m doing on the job now.”

Her excitement for the work she’s doing is obvious as she explains the robotic zones at Honda. “There are material handler robots, weld robots, full-weld robots that reach where people can’t get to, and FANUC robots. All devices are wired to a PLC and go out from there.”

Realizing the average person might not understand, she stops herself and laughs, “I’m sorry! I turn into a big nerd when I talk about this stuff!”

When Erica began the Modern Manufacturing Work-Study program, she was the only female in her cohort. “It was a little challenging because I’m naturally talkative and I think that was surprising to some of the male engineering types. They would just give me one-word answers and look at me like I was a little weird at first.”

But after just a few weeks, Erica earned the respect and friendship of her classmates. “I’ve made some really good friends. Girls shouldn’t be intimidated - we need more women in the field!”

With the combination of Columbus State’s low tuition and the wages she earns through Work-Study, Erica expects to graduate with no college debt. What’s more, Columbus State’s Modern Manufacturing Work-Study partner companies give successful students a full-time job upon graduation. “When I found out I could get a paying job while I was in school doing something I love, and be a candidate for full-time job with a great starting salary when I graduate – it seemed like a perfect choice,” says Erica. “If I work hard, my future is in great shape.”