BOONE, N.C. — “We need leaders and we need them now,” a representative from Tesla Inc. told students at Appalachian State University.
At a recruitment event held Thursday, May 3, on Appalachian’s campus, students had a chance to meet and hear from representatives of energy companies Tesla and Palmetto about careers in the solar industry. Representatives from each company gave a presentation followed by a Q&A and breakout sessions.
“It was really great to see the tremendous turnout, interest and excitement for Tesla’s visit,” said Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, associate professor in the university’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment. “Tesla values the type of students in our programs and currently employs over 25 alumni throughout the company. We are very excited about continuing to foster the industry relationships that provide excellent job and career prospects to Appalachian students in the sustainable technology program and beyond.”
Tesla, founded in 2003, is a corporation that specializes in electric vehicles, energy storage and solar panel manufacturing. The company’s mission is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
During their presentation to students, alumnus Trevor Hogan ’12 and Alec Meyers — both operations managers with Tesla — touched on the different products Tesla manufacturers and answered students’ questions. They also talked about why Tesla chose to come to Appalachian.
“We’re seeing a lot of very successful leaders come right out of this program and this school,” Meyers said.
During the presentation, Hogan — who earned a bachelor’s degree in appropriate technology, now called sustainable technology — displayed a list of Appalachian graduates he knew who are working or had worked for Tesla. He said the list is growing every day.
Hogan then added, “Who wants to join the list?”
According to Ferrell, Hogan and Meyers held interviews with students for current job openings after the presentation.
Also presenting to the students was Palmetto, a clean energy company focused on solar energy that was founded in 2009 and is currently headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. Sean Hayes, president of the solar division at Palmetto, told students about the company’s solar operations and technology solutions.
Hayes also touched on the opportunities and growth available in the industry. Like Tesla, Palmetto also employs multiple graduates from Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment — including its head of construction.
“What you all have done here is incredible, and you’ve built a really great niche in an industry that has an incredible opportunity to grow,” Hayes said. “I’m impressed by what I’ve seen in the individuals I’ve spoken with, and I can say in the interviews I’ve done in the last four to five years, you guys are way ahead of the game.”
Students attending the event understood why companies such as Tesla and Palmetto chose to recruit at Appalachian. Jonathan Williford, a junior sustainable technology major from Greensboro, said the department and program are starting to be recognized nationally. Williford said he came to the event because he wants people to be self-reliant with their energy, a topic these companies address.
“We have a lot of leading experts coming to this community and trying to teach students about the environment and the mission of sustainability,” said Williford, who is also the outreach and recruitment representative for Appalachian’s Renewable Energy Initiative (REI), a student-led, student-funded organization that seeks to install renewable energy and energy efficiency projects on campus. “I think they’ve seen that because they have graduates from our program, they see the success rate and see people that are passionate. They come to Appalachian because they see people who already have a base-foundation of knowledge.”
Gabrielle Dunn, a graduating senior, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what these companies were up to. Dunn, a sustainable technology major and project coordinator for the REI from Timberlake, said she is no longer surprised companies like Tesla look to Appalachian for recruitment.
“We have one of the highest quality programs for renewable technology and building science in the country,” Dunn explained. “The alumni from this department have achieved incredible things and have given us a good reputation.”
When companies like these visit campus, she added, it’s to find their next leaders.
About the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University features an integrated array of programs spanning the fields of sustainable design and technology. Its mission is to foster a strong and vibrant culture of inquiry, discovery and innovation that integrates theory with application, problem seeking with problem-solving, local issues with global perspectives and technological progress with environmental stewardship. It offers bachelor’s degrees in sustainable technology and building science, and a master’s degree in technology.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.