Engineering the Perfect Connection
Spencer Halliday was frustrated. It was spring of 2018, getting close to the end of her junior year, and even with the help of dedicated individuals in Career & Professional Development, she still hadn’t landed the perfect summer internship.
It wasn’t because she wasn’t qualified. The now-senior mechanical engineering major had a resume rich in experience — she worked on campus for the Employer and Industry Engagement Team, played on the women’s club rugby team and served in leadership roles for her sorority, Tri Delta, but her luck was failing her. That changed when she met Laura Dean, executive director of alumni relations for the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics.
After hearing about Halliday’s struggle, Dean remembered James “JB” Orcutt, whom she had met at a recent alumni focus group. During that event, Orcutt had mentioned that his company, SEAKR Engineering, would love to hire an intern from DU.
“Soon after he mentioned the need for interns, I met Spencer and heard that she was seeking an internship in the aerospace industry,” Deansays. “I connected the student to JB, and through his recommendation, SEAKR hired her.”
Halliday spent her summer at SEAKR working for Orcutt. “I was brought in to help with the mechanical engineering aspects of a specific project in computer-automated design,” she explains. “There were only two other interns in the whole company, so I spent all my time working directly with engineers, like James.”
Halliday enjoyed the design aspects of her job and found it especially valuable to be able to draw on what she’d learned in her classes. “All of the engineers I talked to told me that success depends on being able to learn a process and problem solve based on my knowledge, rather than just doing exactly what I’ve learned in a college class.”
In addition to the engineering experience, Halliday also appreciated working in an office environment. “I loved everything about the company. It was nice to be able to see what a professional environment looks like,” she says. “It was refreshing to see that I can do real work somewhere and enjoy the atmosphere at the same time.”
For his part, Orcutt considers Halliday’s time under his direction mutually beneficial. “Spencer was extremely sharp and eager to learn,” he says. “From my experience, DU engineering students have great motivation, a desire to succeed, and most importantly exhibit a willingness to attack any assignment given to them head on.
As the University continues to implement its strategic plan, DU IMPACT 2025, connections like those between Orcutt and Halliday will become more common. From hosting student-alumni networking receptions to arranging job-shadowing opportunities, individuals in Career & Professional Development and Advancement are working to make innovative programming that connects talented students with accomplished alumni an integral part of the DU experience.
“Alumni can expose students to myriad career opportunities they might not otherwise have considered, and they can provide valuable connections within their organizations and to others in the industry to help students build their professional networks,” Dean says. “In turn, students can inform alumni of the innovative programming happening at DU that may not have been around when they were in school.”