Ole Miss grad Millie Eubanks to begin career at Toyota

Published 12:40 pm Monday, July 10, 2023

By Erin Garrett
The University of Mississippi, University Marketing & Communications

When Millie Eubanks leaves the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, she smells like oil, grease and metal.

“You don’t think of femininity when walking into – or out of – a manufacturing plant,” said Eubanks, who graduated in May from the University of Mississippi. “But there is something so valuable about being a woman in STEM because we think differently, and we have the perseverance to work through tough situations.”

Millie in a red dress leans against a white column in front of the Lyceum.
As a student in the CME program, mechanical engineering major Millie Eubanks has been selected for co-ops at Toyota and gathered other accolades. She graduated this May. (Submitted photo)

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Eubanks is a mechanical engineering major with a manufacturing emphasis in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. She has thrived during her time in the CME, receiving multiple co-ops at Toyota Mississippi and is an ambassador and mentor for the program.

“(Millie) is compassionate, inquisitive, collaborative and determined to succeed in anything that she pursues,” said Scott Kilpatrick, the center’s executive director.

“She embodies the attributes of servant leadership that we strive to instill in our CME graduates.”

Eubanks spent her childhood in Gulfport but graduated from Water Valley High School. A longtime fan of the university, she grew up watching Ole Miss athletics and tailgated in the Grove. Both her stepdad and sister are alumni.

Nevertheless, when the time came to look for colleges, Eubanks was leaning toward Delta State’s nursing program.

Enter the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropyg. Council leadership encouraged Eubanks to interview for their scholarship program, which provides $10,000 each year to go toward tuition expenses. She was ultimately selected for the Gertrude Hudson Turner Council Scholarship.

“Then, I was dead set on going to Ole Miss,” Eubanks said. “The Women’s Council helped me so much financially.”

As a freshman, Eubanks was undeclared. She knew she wanted to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, but was uncertain of which field.

Millie stands in a blue collared shirt with the CME logo in front of a brick building.
Eubanks served as a CME ambassador and mentor during her time at Ole Miss. (Submitted photo)


“Like many freshmen, she had some ideas of what she wanted to do in her life but went through a discovery phase that first year,” said Casey Cockrell Stuart, CME associate director of academic programs. “Because she is an ambitious person, not exactly knowing where she wanted to be frustrated her until she landed on the CME.”

Eubanks had three criteria for selecting a major: that she would never be bored, that she would always have opportunities to learn and that she would have opportunities to help people.

A friend introduced Eubanks to the CME program. It checked all the boxes. Unfortunately, at the time she intended to apply, the deadline had passed by a week. She sent in her resume anyway with the hope that she could still be accepted.

“I got on the list for the sophomore entry program,” she said. “I had a mini-interview, and at the end they told me I could be in the program. I declared as a mechanical engineering major.”

“Millie is a person who wants to grow not only for herself, but also to help others. She cares deeply about people and about being someone you can depend on to get a task done.”

— Casey Cockrell Stuart, CME associate director of academic programs

Eubanks flourished after her acceptance to the program because her “talents were being used and showcased,” Cockrell Stuart said.

“She is one of those students that make our work in higher education rewarding,” Cockrell Stuart said. “Millie is a person who wants to grow not only for herself, but also to help others. She cares deeply about people and about being someone you can depend on to get a task done.”

Besides her responsibilities as a OMWC scholar and CME ambassador and mentor, Eubanks has served as president of the Collegiate Automotive Manufacturing Society and has received scholarships from the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association and Mississippi Manufacturers Association.

Rochelle Southern, administrative assistant for the CME, grew to know Eubanks in her role as a student worker for the program.

“Millie is the absolute best and incredible in every aspect,” Southern said. “Everyone here loves her. She has better initiative at her age than anyone I have ever seen.”

Millie stands in a white t-shirt in front of the Toyota plant.
During one of her Toyota co-ops, Eubanks worked in paint production. She led projects such as helping the plant eliminate paint shop defects. (Submitted photo)


That initiative has served her well in her co-ops with Toyota. She had barely taken any engineering courses when she applied for the first opportunity in 2019.

“I thought it was a shot in the dark,” she said. “I literally had just started, but I knew I was willing to learn.”

She landed the job and began in January 2020 in Quality Functional Engineering at Toyota. She then went on to complete two additional co-ops in paint production and stamping production. She led critical projects that helped the plant eliminate paint shop defects, analyze the productivity of automated systems and, most recently, implement the relocation and repurposing of an oil filtration system.

The Blue Springs Toyota plant manufactures the Corolla.

“I now essentially know how a Corolla is built,” Eubanks said. “I know how it is stamped out, and I know how it’s welded and painted, and I know the parts and how they work.”

Millie is wearing a yellow safety vest and a yellow hard hard and a mask and safety goggles.
Eubanks is set to begin working full time at Toyota as a maintenance engineering analyst. (Submitted photo)


A fun fact Eubanks mentioned about her time at the plant involved a driving certification.

“It’s kind of bizarre that I got certified to drive inside of the plant,” she said. “I had to drive a manual Corolla from the outside of the plant to the inside of the plant and then park it and reverse it back outside.

“I was shaking the entire time and thought, ‘What if I hit a vehicle that cost $20,000?’”

Spoiler alert: she did not. What she did do, however, is land a permanent position with the company in body operations as a maintenance engineering analyst in stamping.

“It seems to me that Millie’s experience during her co-op placement really provided a vision for her professional career and affirmed a sense of self-confidence,” Kilpatrick said. “She came back from that work experience with a renewed energy and drive.

“All of her intelligence and talent already existed within Millie, but that work opportunity ignited a spark in her that has continued to grow. I cannot wait to see what Millie will accomplish as a leader in her professional career and within her community in the future.”

Millie sits in a black tank top and pants with a khaki wide-brimmed hat with a mountain and blue skies in the background.
Eubanks takes in the view at Rocky Mountain National Park. She discovered a love of mountain climbing while serving as a camp counselor in Colorado. (Submitted photo)


When she’s not on campus or at the Toyota plant, Eubanks enjoys painting with watercolors, reading and hiking.

“The summer of 2021, I was a camp counselor in Colorado, where I led groups of 10- to 12-year-old girls on camping trips where we would sometimes climb mountains, but ultimately just enjoyed the outdoors,” she said. “Mountain climbing is now one of my hobbies.”

Eubanks is looking forward to beginning her career. While she acknowledges the importance of emphasizing women in STEM, she dislikes the label.

“I don’t want to be a ‘woman engineer’; I want to be an engineer,” she said. “I want the same opportunities as my male counterparts, and thankfully, I have had them.”