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Stepping Up for STEM in Wichita Falls: Marcie Williford


Stepping Up For STEM in Wichita Falls: Marcie Williford, Engineer at Alcoa Howmet and TAME Co-Chair
Above, left: Marcie Williford takes students on a tour during a Young Engineer Summer Camp; above, right: Marcie collaborates with other engineers at Alcoa Howmet, which specializes in precision investment castings of superalloy, titanium and aluminum alloys for aerospace and industrial markets.

"Every student’s success is good for the whole community. The influence of a successful locally-educated person is enormous when you consider the impact it has on their family, friends and community. Someone from your own town accomplishing big things can be far more impactful than someone from outside this community."

Marcie Williford is Manager of Process and Quality Engineering at Alcoa Howmet. She and Co-Chair Dr. Denise Simmons are stepping up for STEM in TAME’s Wichita Falls Chapter. This story is the first segment in a three-part series celebrating past and present leadership in Wichita Falls.

There’s a lot of excitement about TAME in Wichita Falls these days. What’s happening?
This is a great time for TAME in Wichita Falls. We’ve got a great program in place and a lot of community support, and we’re excited to build on that structure.

Ed Downing has been a champion of TAME since the 80s and he has done an incredible job keeping TAME programs going for all these years. Now Ed is passing the leadership on to Dr. Denise Simmons and myself, and we’re looking forward to building on his success. We’re planning to strengthen the structure of the TAME programs and tap into new opportunities for support from the engineering and education communities.

The superintendent of the Wichita Falls School District is a huge proponent of TAME programs, and he wants a TAME Club on every junior high and high school campus. We’re working with the school district to get that organized. This upper level support is hugely important. We’re also working to build relationships with teachers, making sure they’re supported and connected to resources and getting them involved and excited. We’re fortunate that the school district is able to provide a small stipend for the teachers that are willing to participate in the TAME program.

This area has such a need for science and engineering-minded students. We have Midwestern State University with their great engineering program and Vernon College with their strong technical training. We also have several manufacturing facilities that hire and train engineers for positions here in WF. Now, we hope to build a strong TAME program in our local schools that will partner with all of these organizations to prepare students for science and engineering careers.

What got you involved with TAME?
Alcoa Howmet has always been a strong proponent of community involvement. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work in local high schools, helping tutor local kids who were involved in TAME. The kids were getting ready for the Math and Science Competitions and needed some help with their practice tests. Alcoa provided a group of engineers to spend a few hours with the students and help prepare them for the competition. That was my first introduction to TAME.

I also participate on the local Alcoa Howmet internal advisory board for Alcoa Foundation Grants. We review community requests for Alcoa funding for alignment with our community agenda of Education and Environment. This gave me the opportunity to see the proposal TAME had submitted and the more I learned about TAME, the more I wanted to get involved.

Not long after that I was given the opportunity to participate in a brainstorming workshop at Region 9. We had representatives from MSU, WFISD, Alcoa, TAME chapter leadership, as well as longtime TAME supporter Dr. Beccy Hambright. There was a lot of excitement and interest in the room. I think we all realized that we had the opportunity to do great things in this community by working together and bringing all of our strengths and interest together into one common goal.

How do TAME programs benefit employers like Alcoa Howmet?
Wichita Falls area businesses hire a significant number of professionals with degrees from STEM related programs. Engineers who want to live in Wichita Falls, raise their family here, build their career here – those are our ideal employees. And the salaries go right back into the community.

Every student’s success is good for the whole community. The influence of a successful locally-educated person is enormous when you consider the impact it has on their family, friends and community. Someone from your own town accomplishing big things can be far more impactful than someone from outside this community.

What advice do you have for TAME students based on your own career?
I’ve always been interested in how things work, and I was very blessed to have a wonderful teacher in high school that encouraged me in that path. Engineering may still be seen as a male-dominated profession, but I don’t see gender as a barrier. If STEM is your passion and your interest, there’s nothing keeping you from being successful.




By Jessie Temple, August 21, 2015.

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