Flying High: Student Takes Off During Internship

Laura Karlen

Earning her private pilot’s license during high school is not the only reason Laura Karlen is flying high. This summer, the integrated supply management major landed an internship working in her chosen field.

The internship is with Rolls Royce, which designs, manufactures and provides power systems products and services for air, sea and land applications.

“I come from a family that loves aviation. With all of my family involvement in aviation, my private pilot’s license and my chosen major, I am extremely interested in working within the aerospace industry,” says Karlen. “Having the opportunity to work in that industry as well as get hands on technical experience were huge reasons for me to choose the Rolls Royce internship.”

As a supplier quality engineering intern, Karlen works on tasks to resolve quality issues with turbine machining and casting suppliers. “Whenever there is a nonconformance for turbine blades, my group is notified, and we work with the supplier to resolve the issues, whether it be returning the parts or discussing with engineering staff members to see if the parts can still be used,” says Karlen. “I recently completed a mapping exercise to determine where defects were most commonly occurring and presented the results to a team of our suppliers and internal staff.” 

But it isn’t just the work that has Karlen soaring.

“My manager says ‘I am going to throw you in the deep end of the pool but will have a life preserver on the side if needed,’” says Karlen. “I have truly been completely hands-on and working beside the full-time employees. I am constantly challenged and learning so much, and that is a great feeling.”

She adds that since this was her first major related position, she wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. “The first few weeks I was holding back because I didn’t want to mess up, but I now realize that my manager and team are much happier when I give it my all.” To other students, she advises, “It is okay to make mistakes because that is when learning happens. So don’t be afraid to mess up. Just be smart about your decisions, and it will all work out.” 

Karlen will complete her studies at WMU during spring 2017 and would like to participate in a rotational program in supply management. “I still don’t know exactly what I want to do.”

Whatever she decides, Karlen is certain to take flight.