STARKVILLE, Miss.--For the 13th consecutive year, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers awarded Mississippi State University a 2013 Outstanding Student Chapter Award.
The recognition is based on the group's exceptional enthusiasm, quality, professionalism and service. Only 16, about 8 percent, of the nearly 200 national and international chapters were selected for the honor.
This semester, 73 percent of MSU chemical engineering majors are AIChE members. During the 2012-13 year, which the national institute evaluated, 301 students participated in AIChE activities .
Chapter officers agreed that chapter adviser Bill B. Elmore plays a leading role both in the chapter's continued success and the overall academic success of its members. Elmore, a University of Arkansas doctoral graduate, is an associate professor at MSU and holds the Hunter Henry Chair in MSU's Swalm School of Chemical Engineering.
Senior Halvor "Warren" Hem, son of Halvor and Virginia Hem of Long Beach, is chapter vice president of internal relations, and he said Elmore is the organization's key motivator and leader.
"Dr. Elmore does so much and pushes our giving back to the community. His doing that makes all of us care about AIChE even more," Hem said. "We do our school work, but we're not just about school; we want to be contributing members in our communities.
"We're proud not just to be students in Mississippi State's Bagley College of Engineering, but specifically, to be students in the Swlam School of Engineering."
Elmore said service is a major AIChE emphasis. MSU chapter initiatives include teaching young children about Lego robotics, encouraging Upward Bound participants to attend college and helping underrepresented students improve skills in mathematics and science, among others.
Sophomore Rachael Fouasnon, of Long Beach, is a chapter representative on the Bagley College's Engineering Student Council. The daughter of Alain Fouasnon said she joined AIChE because her peers were constantly talking about it and, as she got involved, she realized she deeply appreciates service.
"I started going to the volunteering stuff that we do at the Palmer Home and Habitat for Humanity, and I really like the Lego projects that we do when we help the Boy Scouts," Fouasnon said. "We actually help children with Asberger's Syndrome, and that's a lot of fun. I just really enjoy it."
In addition to service, the two senior 2012-13 AIChE co-presidents agreed the chapter's long tradition of excellence is another plus for members. Alexander E. "Alex" Carrubba is the son of Paul and Sharon Carrubba of Long Beach, while Shane D. Ables is the son of George and Li Mae Ables of Pickens.
Carrubba said being an AIChE leader motivates him to excel academically, create new friendships and emulate his predecessors.
"We see all the people that have held AIChE leadership positions before us, how they carried themselves, got good jobs and became successful in the workforce, so that gives us good motivation to carry on the tradition and be good leaders, and that prepares us to work," he said.
Ables emphasized how chapter membership helped him comfortably transition to college life.
"AIChE is a great way to get involved. I was homeschooled, so I wanted to come to a place where I could meet more people and develop friendships," Ables said. "Plus, being able to communicate not only with the current members but with those who have graduated is a lot of fun."
Robert "Chris" Callahan, son of Robert and Lori Callahan of Prattville, Ala., is the chapter's vice president of external relations, and he said Elmore always goes the extra mile.
"My sophomore or junior year, a group of us were just struggling on a subject," Callahan said. "This is at 7:30 at night, and Dr. Elmore was making his rounds to talk to people. He saw that we were all studying, and he took us to a classroom to explain it to us. It wasn't even his class; he was just helping us to make sure we stay on the right path."
Elmore said much of the credit for the chapter's longtime record of success must be given to three chemical engineering alumni who are among the school's major benefactors. In addition to Dave C. Swalm, for whom the school is named, he said support provided by Ernest W. Deavenport and Hunter W. Henry helped create MSU chemical engineering's nationally recognized tradition of excellence.
Because of them and other supporters, an emphasis on learning, service and research has been in place for decades, he said.
"The AIChE has a strong legacy of service and activity here at Mississippi State, and it stretches back to the 1970s," he said. "These men and their donations have established the School of Chemical Engineering in a way that makes it a national presence."
Learn more about MSU chemical engineering programs at http://che.msstate.edu.