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Cooper Tire trainer co-teaches Ole Miss engineering winter session

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

When Nichole Williams asked seven University of Mississippi students to draw a pig on graph paper, they all thought it would be easy. But the chemical engineering alumna, who has found career success at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Tupelo, wasn’t the least bit impressed.

“Those are not good,” she said. “Let’s try it again. Only this time, I will give you step-by-step instructions.”

The results?

“Much, much better,” Williams said, smiling as she looked at the drawings.

Williams returned to her alma mater earlier this month at the request of John O’Haver, professor and chair of chemical engineering, to lead Six Sigma Green Belt Training.

Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools to improve processes and output quality for manufacturing. The American Society for Quality oversees training and certification for professionals, including the awarding of belts in yellow, green and black, as they complete higher levels of training and proficiency.

Williams, leader for the Cooper Tupelo facility’s process capability improvement efforts, said she was honored and happy to be invited to temporarily join the Ole Miss faculty.

“It feels like coming home, but so much has changed,” said the Iuka native, who is also responsible for facilitating Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training. “It’s exciting to be back, but different, too.”

O’Haver said he asked Williams to return to campus to help equip UM chemical engineering students for future employment.

“In listening to company representatives from manufacturing companies at our career fair, some said they would consider hiring our graduates if they knew Lean Six Sigma,” he said. “Since Nichole is a trainer and Cooper afforded her the opportunity to teach this Wintersession, I felt it was the absolute best thing for our students to have her here.”

Students in O’Haver’s class said they have indeed benefitted from Williams’ teaching.

“This course has given me real-world experience, and not just academic theory,” said Catherine Klara, a junior chemical engineering major from Lafayette, Louisiana. “Knowing this will definitely be useful when I begin looking for work.”

Williams agreed.

“The ability to provide well-written, precise, easy-to-follow work instructions is of great importance to operators who must follow these instructions in whatever processes they are doing,” she said. “The quality of production often depends upon the instructions given to the workers.”