That one word likely changed Teresa Munger’s life.
“As a junior in high school,” she said, “my honors physics teacher asked the class if anyone was interested in going to school for engineering. I raised my hand and said maybe. I didn’t really know what I wanted to major in, but engineering seemed like it might be a good fit as I did well in math and science. After class, she asked me if I was serious about it and if I was interested in RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Troy, NY]. She ended up nominating me for the Rensselaer Medal Scholarship. That one question in physics class ended up being a significant catalyst into my future.”
Of course, Munger may also have had a predisposition toward engineering—and toward RPI.
“My father has a mechanical engineering degree,” Munger said, “and works as a plant engineer. Additionally, my aunt and uncle both graduated from RPI with engineering degrees.”
Munger got her own degree, a BS in mechanical engineering with a manufacturing concentration, in 2008, posting a GPA of 3.92 out of 4.0. It was during her undergraduate years that she realized she wanted a role in manufacturing.
“I took a two-semester course called Advanced Manufacturing Lab. We spent the first semester designing a product and the manufacturing processes for it,” she said. “The second semester was spent manufacturing 600 of one of the designs from the first semester. I enjoyed the hands-on elements of being able to work with machines and actually see a product come to life. From this class, I knew that I wanted to pursue a position in manufacturing.
“Meanwhile, a friend, who had graduated from RPI two years ahead of me, had taken a job in the Manufacturing Engineering Development [MED] Program at Pratt and Whitney [East Hartford, CT]. Everything that she told me about the program sounded like something that I would be interested in. I liked that it was manufacturing related, would be based in the northeast, and would allow me to see multiple areas of the company as I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. During the interview process, I was able to tour the facility and it seemed like an interesting place to become a part of.”
Another advantage is that RPI has a satellite campus in Hartford that offers an Advanced Professional Studies program for working professionals. Munger took courses toward a master’s of science in management while herself taking part in the P&W MED program, which she completed in June 2010. Her next P&W assignment was in the Hot Section Module Center’s Advance Coatings group. Before this assignment was over Munger had received her master’s (while bumping her GPA up to 3.93).
Munger has also been promoted to senior manufacturing engineer.
Recently “Teresa has been working on a variety of initiatives that positively impact the financial performance of the coating business unit,” said David Bonsall, general manager of P&W’s Hot Section Module Center and the person who nominated Munger for 30 Under 30.
“Outside of P&W,” Bonsall said, “she is an active member of the Hartford section of the Society of Women Engineers, and serves on the Executive Board as a section representative.”
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Profiles as a PDF.