RALEIGH, N.C. -- In 1954, the paper industry established a pulp and paper program at N.C. State in part to help man a pulp and paper industry boom in the southern United States. Students in this program were able to receive a B.S. degree in Pulp and Paper Technology (PPT). The students could also stay for one additional semester and receive a second B.S. in Chemical Engineering, a program feature then not available at any of the other schools offering paper science degrees. With strong regional support, an outstanding scholarship endowment, and this unique dual degree program, the NC State program began to establish itself as a dominant program in the United States. In 2004, this program became jointly administered by the College of Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, and its name was changed to Paper Science and Engineering. In 2005, the program became ABET accredited.
Close to 200 students are enrolled in the N.C. State Paper Science and Engineering program, and Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Brandon Long, a senior in the program and we asked him a few questions about his experiences at N.C. State.
Paperitalo:What attracted you to the Paper Science and Engineering program?
Long: This program naturally eased itself into my life. I've always wanted to attend NCSU to pursue a degree in engineering. I wasn't for sure of what engineering path I would like to take. My father has worked for a paper company all of his life and told me of the opportunities that lie in this field. I agreed to visit his mill and talk with some of the young engineers. What they were saying seemed very intriguing and unique to a young high school student. From that day forward I figured I would at least give the program a try.
Paperitalo: Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?
Long: Yes! Which is amazing because very, very few of my friends in PSE had even thought about Paper Science in high school.
Paperitalo: Tell us about the internships and/or co-ops you have had.
Long:I am a rising senior so I have had multiple work experiences. My first was the summer and fall, what we call a super co-op, working for International Paper at their Red River Mill in Campti, Louisiana. This was really a fun internship because it with held a lot of firsts for me. I had never lived 1,000 miles from home for so long. Nor had I ever had the responsibilities that come with entering the real world work force and performing well within a company as large as International Paper. I worked in the finished products department for my first internship primarily focusing on cost reduction projects and process improvement. During this time I learned how important the safety culture is within the paper industry. I enjoyed my first internship so much that I returned to the same mill the following summer. I was in the pulp mill and kiln/caustic area for my second internship at the Red River Mill. My third internship was also with International Paper starting the summer after my junior year. My third internship was at International Paper's Riegelwood Mill in North Carolina. It felt great to finally get closer to home! While there I worked in the Power and Recovery department. As my internships progressed I used skills learned from previous work experiences and the Paper Science classes I had taken at school.
Paperitalo:What does this program meant to you?
Long: This program means a whole lot to me. Pursuing a dual major at NCSU in Paper Science and Engineering as well as Chemical Engineering is by far the best decision I have made in my life thus far. I am constantly making my roommates jealous when I tell them about the different opportunities presented to us PSE folks on a daily basis. All three of my roommates have STEM majors and really enjoy their curriculum but the PSE program at NCSU is definitely unprecedented in terms of student involvement and industry relations.
Paperitalo: Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years, and what are your career aspirations?
Long: This is a tough question because I like to leave myself open to options and as long as I am enjoying what I do everyday then I feel I am meeting my aspirations. I love the mill setting and would be entirely content with working in a mill the duration of my career. After being hired as an entry level process engineer, I would like to eventually get into management at the mill. In 10 years, I see myself managing a specific area of the mill.
Paperitalo: What would you recommend to anyone interested in Pulp and Paper?
Long: I would recommend after successfully being admitted to the program, try your best to get an internship after your freshman year. That first internship is extremely vital to your future. If one really enjoys their first internship then it will make the classes go by much smoother. If they do not enjoy it then it is time to find a new major.