NC A&T engineering student Ryan Reese discovers how vital glass is to the future
How Corning partners with historically Black colleges and universities to develop top STEM talent.
Ryan Reese wants to make a difference in the world. And Corning wants to help him do just that.
In his third semester as a Corning Fellow, and after a summer internship with Corning Pharmaceutical Technologies, Ryan has discovered the multitude of progress-promoting opportunities available for STEM talent at the company — from renewable energy products like solar arrays to vaccine-protecting vials, all stemming from Corning’s leadership in glass.
“I didn’t realize how important glass is to society. It’s always there,” says the electrical engineering graduate student at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T), a top-tier research institution. “You don’t really think about it, but the products made with Corning glass help society and give us the ability to do things that weren’t possible before.”
For decades, Corning has recruited STEM talent from NC A&T and other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. In 2020, Corning committed to a five-year, $5.5 million investment in NC A&T, including scholarships for more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students preparing to enter STEM and education professions as soon as 2023.
Ryan’s fellowship covers $15,000 in tuition and fees for the two years of his master’s program and secured his spot in Corning’s summer internship program.
Corning mentors also work with the students throughout their education, offering professional development opportunities and programs to foster their long-term success. That means a lot to Ryan.
“The money is always important, but the personal development aspect is great. It’s not like Corning is just throwing money at scholars; they’re invested in the scholars reaching their goals in the future,” Ryan says.
Corning’s relationship-building engagement helped the company repeatedly earn distinction as a top HBCU supporter, based on a survey of deans at 15 accredited HBCU engineering programs and evaluation by Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering, a non-profit organization.
Mark Vaughn, manager of technical talent pipelining, leads Corning’s Technology Community Office of STEM and serves as campus manager for the NC A&T partnership. He says the students, the colleges, the company, and the communities where Corning operates all benefit from the HBCU partnership.
"These scholarships support students from North Carolina while also attracting out-of-state students to the prestigious STEM degree programs at NC A&T," Mark says. "These scholars and fellows will enter their careers with excellent preparation for a variety of paths, some of which, hopefully, will lead back to Corning."
With so much mentor support and real work experience in his education, the path to Corning – or wherever he chooses to begin his career – is now much shorter for Ryan.
One experience especially galvanized his curiosity.
Corning invited the 23-year-old to attend National Day of Glass festivities, including a keynote by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wendell Weeks. After the presentation, Ryan sat down for a one-on-one conversation with the innovation leader.
“Wendell really enlightened me on Corning’s history and where Corning is heading,” recalls Ryan.
One place Corning is heading is where Ryan has long aimed to go: developing renewable energy and sustainable solutions across multiple markets.
From Wendell, Ryan learned about Corning’s emissions-control work with Environmental Technologies. Thanks to his summer on the manufacturing floor, he now understands Corning’s significant contribution to Life Sciences.
The internship, his third, granted him considerable responsibility for programming a particular equipment process. Ryan was a little surprised to have so much input, but he tackled the challenge with enthusiasm. The plant operations manager said Ryan is among the brightest and most hard-working interns with whom she’s worked.
“It was a lot more fun than my other internships. It’s making me reconsider what I want to do after,” he says.
Eyeing a spring 2023 graduation date, Ryan is thinking differently – about his future and about the myriad possibilities at Corning.
“I anticipate having a very long engineering career. I don’t want to get bored in whatever industry I pick,” says Ryan. “I want to be part of something larger than myself, where I can make an impact on the world. That would keep my career exciting as it progresses."