Nissan North America in Smyrna, Tennessee, came calling recently along with industry partner Yates Services. They were courting MTSU students, who watched, listened to oral and PowerPoint presentations and later asked many questions.
Some of the students even began the process of applying for part-time internships at Nissan, for jobs paying more than $15 an hour that may begin after Christmas.
In the first of what will be additional campus visits to recruit students, Nissan and Yates representatives enjoyed quality face time with engineering technology majors in the Tom H. Jackson Building's Cantrell Hall.
Yates Services' co-op work opportunities at Nissan offer $15.25 starting pay for full-time students and flexible work schedules that will average 20 hours per week for any of three, four-hour shifts Monday through Friday.
Potential benefits include being paid weekly, an opportunity for a $500 co-op bonus and receiving holiday pay.
MTSU senior Naomi Florentino, 24, of Murfreesboro, who works in maintenance support at Nissan, attended the campus gathering with Yates and Nissan representatives because she "wanted to learn about this opportunity in manufacturing. It's so important for the economy in the Middle Tennessee area."
"I'm learning at Nissan, but I come to school and learn engineering principles for a career in robotics," she added. "It's like the more you learn the more you don't know. This mechatronics program is going to become the (industry standard). It's so versatile. It helps students be well-rounded."
"I was preparing for a career that doesn't exist, but now I'm glad to see I'm a part of a process that's becoming a reality."
In high school, Florentino knew mechatronics existed, but was not offered at any four-year colleges in Middle Tennessee. So she pursued mechanical engineering at Lipscomb University in Nashville, and then transferred to Motlow College in Smyrna, Tennessee, to pursue its mechatronics associate degree.
Eventually, she transferred to MTSU, which unveiled the mechatronics engineering bachelor's program in August 2013.
"I was real excited when MTSU began offering it," she said. "Things worked out."
Sophomore mechanical engineering major Lawrence Cotton, 20, of Cleveland, Tennessee, wanted to attend the session because he "thinks it's a really great opportunity to get my foot in the door. I've been trying to find my way as far as who to talk to (in manufacturing)."
"I thought it was interesting to hear what it's like working on a production line on the floor of an engineering company," he added.
Yates' personnel manager Greg Persinger and operations manager Steven Lee and Nissan senior manager of human resources Gina Baio met Dec. 8 with Jessica Carter, interim director for MTSU's School of Agribusiness and Agriscience.
"Students get so busy with college and working part-time," Carter said. "A lot of them may not have a future plan (a full-time job) when they finish.
It gives our students networking opportunities, work experience and possible careers."
Baio, an MTSU alumna, said Nissan "definitely wants a partnership with students" that can help "provide full-time career opportunities and prepare them for the workplace. Especially for students who are local, it's a great career close to home."
The Yates-Nissan team met Dec. 9 with Dr. Hilary Stallings, director of the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center, to discuss opportunities with student-veterans. Persinger, Lee and Baio also are reaching out to Bill Fletcher, director of the Career Development Center, to further cement the internship relationship.