A Degree with Unlimited Possibilities
For graduating senior Mazie Ayers, a School of Engineering education has opened the door to a world of unlimited possibilities. “It’s been very rewarding to learn something in class and realize it applies to so many parts of my life and I’m really grateful for this,” she says. “I’ve learned there are so many directions I can go in – the possibilities are limitless.”
Yet Ayers’ path to earning her degree in industrial and systems engineering has been far from conventional. As an adult student from East Brunswick, New Jersey, she transferred to the School of Engineering from Middlesex Community College, where she studied electrical engineering.
“I spent time in jobs that didn’t fulfill me or make me happy and realized I wanted something more, which is why I went back to school,” Ayers explains.
At Rutgers, she quickly discovered industrial engineering. “I didn’t even know the field existed until I saw the Rutgers curriculum – and immediately fell in love with it,” she says. “I like it because of its versatility. It’s appealing to know a little about a lot of things – and be able to apply that knowledge to just about any field of engineering.”
At the same time, she was also drawn to the department itself. “It’s a small department – a real hidden gem,” says Ayers, who has served as the president of Alpha Pi Mu, the industrial and systems engineering honor society. “I’ve been able to have good, close-knit relationships not only with my classmates, but also with faculty and staff. I’m incredibly grateful to be part of the Class of 2020. My entire graduating class in ISE is amazing. We all help each other and know each other.”
“Mazie is really amazing – she’s the best,” says industrial and systems engineering professor Susan Albin, who Ayers names as a favorite faculty member. “Her motivation comes from within and she focuses on the job at hand with an intensity that’s almost Zen-like. Her commitment to our field just causes delight in anyone else that feels that way.”
Albin notes that even as Ayers was holding down two jobs to put herself through school as a full-time student, she still found time to volunteer to take photographs of classroom collaboration during one of her active learning-focused courses and mount a “fabulous” display on department bulletin boards.
While Ayers worked as a server at a fine dining steakhouse up until the coronavirus pandemic, she was able to continue to work remotely for Gemco Valve Company in Middlesex, New Jersey – a manufacturer of stainless steel valves for giant pharmaceutical and food industry blenders. She has worked for the company for three years, parlaying an internship in purchasing into a position as head of the company’s quality assurance team.
“Essentially, I led them to get their ISO 9001 quality management certification,” she recalls. “This was my baby, really, and it took a lot of steps – including my getting certified as an internal auditor.”
After graduating, Ayers looks forward to starting a job as a quality engineer at Crane Aerospace in West Caldwell, New Jersey. “I’m very excited I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned at Gemco and Rutgers to further their quality system,” says Ayers.
Ultimately, Ayers’ long-term goal is to get her PhD and return to Rutgers to teach. “I’ve wanted to go into industry first so I’ll have more to offer as a teacher and will be able to share both my knowledge and real life experience with students.
Albin knows Ayers will readily succeed. “Knowledge is power, and Mazie knows how to get things done. She’s a smart, outstanding student. I have absolutely no doubt she will do this,” she predicts.
In the meantime, Ayers offers valuable advice for new students. “Don’t hesitate to ask for help and get to know people in your class and your professors,” she urges. “If I hadn’t done that, I can’t even imagine how different my experience at Rutgers would have been.”