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Creating Lip gloss Today, Building Cars of Tomorrow

FCA US LLC women engineers give back

May 21, 2014


FCA US LLC Women Engineering Group

The tables are set; illustrations and materials are neatly displayed on each station. The team is assembled in a circle receiving instructions about their upcoming assignment. This may sound like a typical day for FCA US engineers; however, this time the assignment does not take place at the office, and the illustrations are not blueprints of the latest automotive technology.

Instead, a group of female engineers spent a Friday in March teaching young women at the Vista Maria treatment center hands-on engineering experiments. Using spaghetti noodles, miniature marshmallows, honey, vegetable shortening, Kool-Aid packets, cocoa and glitter, the girls were able to design towers and create lip gloss.

Making a Difference

Located in Dearborn Heights, Mich., Vista Maria is an all-girl sanctuary which provides care, education and treatment for adolescent girls, ages 11 to 17 suffering the effects of abuse, neglect and other traumas.  It provides them with the educational tools and resources needed to rebuild and have successful lives.

For the second year in a row, FCA US employees participated in an event at Vista Maria, which was sponsored by the company’s Women’s Forum to commemorate Women’s History Month.

According to Rebecca (Becky) Hermannn, the Associate Manager of Volunteer Resources at Vista Maria, the girls look forward to the event and reconnecting with FCA US employees.

“Seeing the height of their spaghetti towers gives them a sense of accomplishment and confidence that really goes a long way,” Hermann said. “This allows them to see that people in the community really do care about them. I think that makes a bigger impact on them than the activity does.”

The World is Your Oyster (or Marshmallow)

The purpose of the event is not just to teach the girls how to build a tower out of spaghetti and miniature marshmallows, but also to educate them about the many career options available in engineering, spanning chemical, mechanical, industrial, civil, electrical engineering and more.

This event helps the girls understand that engineering is more than math and science; it’s about being creative problem solvers.

“They may not realize it at the time, but something as cool and fun as making lip gloss is chemical engineering,” Hermann said. “Working with strong female role models lets them know engineering is an option for them.”

The Second Time Around

Volunteers Carolina Harris, (left) and Rengin Usmen

Volunteers Carolina Harris, (left) and Rengin UsmenThese types of volunteer events not only impact the girls’ lives, but also have a profound effect on the volunteers.

Rengin Usmen, Certification Regulatory Affairs at FCA US, who was inspired by her father to become an engineer, actively volunteers at least six times a year.

Having participated at Vista Maria the first year, she decided to volunteer again.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Usmen said. “I really believe in education, so educating young women is a very important cause to me. Eventually these young ladies will educate their own children, so I hope we can make a difference.”

Sandy Murray, who works as a Supplier Quality Manager at FCA US, is also a second year volunteer. Murray has volunteered for many events such as Gleaners Community Food Bank, The Salvation Army Southeast Michigan, Forgotten Harvest and Special Olympics Michigan. Even though Murray is not an engineer, she realized the impact this event made on the girls.

In between building towers and making lip gloss, Murray and the other volunteers learn about the next generation’s aspirations in life.

“When I first asked one of the girls ‘what she would like to be’ she said a cosmetologist,” Murray said. “By the end of the event, she changed her mind and now she would like to work for FCA US.”

The Long-Term Effects of Giving Back

Pamela Ruffin is a customer advocate for the current production quality organization and has worked at FCA US for nearly 30 years. She earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan. Although Ruffin has volunteered for events such as the Special Olympics, she always believes she can do more. She’s happy FCA US offers employees a variety of ways to give back.

“I think that FCA US has made it easier for you to volunteer,” says Ruffin. “There are so many opportunities that I’m actually encouraged to do more.”

“We have all gone through different experiences that make us who we are today. It’s encouraging to meet these young women and know they are our future. Hopefully we will see some of them at FCA US one day.”