Paper engineering students awarded scholarships from professional organizations

Contact: Cindy Wagner
TAPPI Scholars

Three WMU students received scholarships totalling nearly $20,000 during the annual TAPPI conference. Shown are Isabelle Ownby, Alex Boyd, Dr. Kecheng Li, professor of chemical and paper engineering, and Meegan Heerlyn.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Three Western Michigan University paper engineering students earned nearly $20,000 in scholarships from professional organizations. Senior Alex Boyd was awarded $12,000 in scholarships; Isabelle Ownby, B.S.’23, received $5,500 in awards; and Meegan Heerlyn received a $2,500 scholarship.

“These WMU paper engineering students are well prepared for successful careers upon graduation,” says Brian Pahl, director of WMU's Paper Technology Foundation (PTF). “The PTF is proud to support students through mentoring and allowing students to attend national conferences and learn from leading paper and pulp industry professionals.”

The scholarships were awarded during the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry’s (TAPPI) annual conference. TAPPI is the industry’s leading professional organization; their annual conference brings together students and leading paper and pulp professionals from around the world. 

Boyd received the following four scholarships:

  • $5,000 Recycled Paperboard Technical Association 
  • $5,000 TAPPI Terry S. Paulson Memorial Scholarship
  • $1,000 TAPPI Process Control Division Scholarship
  • $1,000 TAPPI Corrugated Division Scholarship

“I was able to share with the selection committees my qualifications because of my diverse work experience throughout college, largely granted to me through WMU’s industry ties, and my extracurricular activities such as developing a student-led paper training program for industry salespersons, working as drivetrain sub-team lead for Bronco Baja Racing, and my commitment to improving Western’s TAPPI Student Chapter through board service and community building,” says Boyd of his selection for these scholarships.

Boyd has completed multiple internships during his time at WMU and plans to graduate in April 2024.

Ownby received a $5,000 Recycled Paperboard Technical Association scholarship and was one of four students to receive a $500 Deborah Ann McNutt Memorial Student Summit travel stipend to attend the conference. Ownby graduated with a B.S. in paper engineering from WMU this summer. She currently is an applications engineer at Axchem.

“Without these scholarships, I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunity to attend this year’s TAPPI Con,” says Ownby. “These scholarships have been a direct contributor to my professional growth, and I’m very thankful for them!”

Heerlyn received a $1,000 TAPPI Coating and Graphic Arts Division scholarship and a $1,500 TAPPI Process and Product Quality Division scholarship. Heerlyn has worked as a Technical Lab Intern at Graphic Packaging International and as a laboratory assistant at WMU Paper, Coating and Recycling Pilot Plants. She plans to graduate in spring 2025.

“I’m supporting myself throughout education and personal living,” says Heerlyn. “Not only will these scholarships help my progression, they also prove that I am hard-working and very passionate about the paper industry.”

Each year, the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering and WMU’s Paper Technology Foundation provide support for students to attend TAPPIcon, the annual conference of the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries.

WMU is one of just four U.S. universities offering ABET-accredited paper engineering degrees. For more information about WMU’s paper engineering program, visit

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