Trip fuels Morrisville students’ interest in variety of automotive careers

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MORRISVILLE, NY—As Jaguar Land Rover North America opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art North American Headquarters, select Morrisville State College auto students and faculty stood on the sparkling showroom floor in awe. 

“It was breathtaking,” Ray Grabowski, associate professor and chair of Morrisville’s Automotive Department, said of the impressive 144,000-square-foot facility in Mahwah, New Jersey, which includes a product research, training and development center along with the new showroom. 

Grabowski accompanied automotive management BBA students Matthew Hartunian and Christopher Sindoni and automotive technology BTech students Ian Ball and Timothy Cino to the by-invitation-only grand opening, along with students from five local colleges. 

Prior to their official debut at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, guests witnessed a preview of the two newest Jaguar Land Rover automobiles: the Jaguar I-PACE, the brand's first all-electric vehicle, and the exclusive Range Rover SV Coupe. Students in attendance also engaged in a design seminar with presentations led by the vehicle designers.  

“They weren’t just talking about cars, they were talking about a piece of artwork,” said Cino, of Pine Bush, New York. 

Hartunian, of Clifton Park, New York, hopes to replicate that enthusiasm in his future work. 

“I would like to be in a career that is inspirational and to be part of a team where everyone cares about what they are doing,” he said. “I want to love what I do.” 

Morrisville students also gained a new perspective on their future career possibilities through participating in a question-and-answer session with the designers. 

“I came to Morrisville to be a master technician, but after seeing all of the opportunities, my eyes are open to all I can do in the industry and the different places you can take your career,” Hartunian said. 

It was exactly what Grabowski was hoping to get out of the trip. 

“From a professor’s standpoint, the intent was to open the students’ eyes to the industry,” he said. “It allowed the opportunity to see how the industry can cross into other areas.” 

That vision was presented by Maria Rodriguez, product communications coordinator for Jaguar Land Rover and a 2010 graduate of the college’s automotive technology BTech program. Now in her “dream job” after working in various areas of the industry, Rodriguez knows the importance of discovering the variety of options available in an automotive career. 

“I think opportunities like this one offer students special insight into the corporate automotive environment and provide a peek behind the scenes, so to speak, about jobs that may not be immediately on their radar,” Rodriguez said. “For me, offering these opportunities to students is important and quite special. Being able to now open the doors and give students exposure to this side of the automotive industry feels like my way of helping them find their dream job as well.” 

For Sindoni, the “absolutely incredible experience” and Rodriguez’s impressive position with the company reinforced the value of Morrisville’s versatile automotive program. 

“We already have a huge leg up since we have the technical training here, along with the business training,” said Sindoni, of Tarrytown, New York, who is now eyeing the marketing and sales side of the industry. “There are so many avenues we can go into.” 

The vehicles on display also piqued Cino’s and Ball’s interest in the research and development of cars of the future. Cino noted that the electric car puts an “emphasis on the driver” and the lack of an engine makes it “extremely aerodynamic.” Ball is fascinated by the endless design options an electric car allows compared to a traditional layout, and hopes to someday be at the heart of the transformation of future vehicles.    

“This is a huge stride for the automotive industry,” said Ball, of East Syracuse, New York. “It will start to change the way cars are designed. I want to be part of it.” 

The trip was one of many networking events the Morrisville auto program takes advantage of, ranging from visits to local repair shops and insurance auctions to attending the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

“Don’t close yourself off to just working on cars,” Hartunian said. “There is a whole playground of things we can do and that we are exposed to.” 

Morrisville State College’s curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs. 

The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2018 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2018 Best Colleges rankings.