An OU alumna has pursued a career in the interests of improving peoples' lives.
Stacy Lewis is amidst an ascension into "black belt" status, and she's never taken a martial arts class in her life. The black belt she hopes to attain is not in the discipline of martial arts.
This black belt comes from the world of industrial engineering.
At 25 years old, Lewis, a 2002 OU alumna and industrial engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration, is currently working on a project to improve accountability for aviation repairs at the logistics center in Oklahoma City. Once the project is complete, she will become a "lean six sigma black belt," an elite certification awarded to industrial engineers.
"Not very many have that opportunity, and very few attain the black belt status," said Randa Shehab, associate professor for industrial engineering. "The fact that she's able to get up to black belt status I think tells you something about her intellectual capabilities as well as her dedication."
For Lewis, the ability to work to improve people's lives is enough to vindicate her profession.
"Making life easier for people is really what it boils down to," Lewis said.
Lewis grew up in Altus, a town of about 21,000 people. She said her dream was always to be a lawyer because she "liked debating with people."
However, while attending Altus High School, Lewis found her niche in math and science. It wasn't until high school calculus that Lewis first heard about the profession that would soon attract her full attention.
"That's the first time I really heard about engineering," she said.
After graduating high school in 1998, Lewis had a choice between OU and Purdue University. She said she decided to attend OU because she wanted to stay in Oklahoma and "fell in love with the OU campus."
"It was kind of scary coming from a small town to such a large campus," she said.
After pledging Pi Beta Phi sorority, Lewis said she quickly gained numerous friends, many of whom she still has today. She said the sorority aided her transition into college, where she decided to pursue an engineering degree.
"I was the only engineer in my sorority," she said.
A passion for engineering
Although Lewis originally declared a major in chemical engineering, she said she decided to switch majors her sophomore year. After researching each branch of engineering, she said the choice was easy.
"Industrial just fit exactly what I wanted to do," she said. "I think it just had more of the 'people' aspect in dealing with people and improving processes. I like more of that type of problem solving."
She said her transition into industrial engineering was smooth because of the size of the college and the close relationships between students and faculty.
"I loved it because it's a smaller college, so you pretty much have the same classes with the same people," Lewis said. "I just became really close with the professors and the other students, and we always studied together and hung out outside of class."
One faculty member in particular with which Lewis worked closely was Shehab, Lewis' senior capstone faculty adviser.
"I met her in the fall of 2000 in one of the very first classes she had in I.E.," Shehab said. "She was fairly quiet at that time, so I didn't know her very well until we got to some of the more advanced classes."
Shehab said Lewis had a desire to go beyond just memorizing the material.
"She always wanted to make sure that she had not just a grasp of the mechanics of how to do something, but an understanding of how to do it," Shehab said.
Shehab said many of her memories about Lewis stem from their work together during Lewis' senior capstone.
"I was really able to see how dedicated she was and how she really did want to understand at a deeper level," Shehab said. "She wanted to really understand the why and how things work, so that she could really affect it down at that base level."
A passion for people
After receiving her master's degree in industrial engineering in fall 2003, Lewis said she had several career choices.
"That fall, I interviewed with a lot of companies and actually received five offers," she said. "I went to Haliburton in Dallas and worked with them."
Lewis said a job opened up in the Federal Aviation Administration in summer 2004, so she pursued it. She said location was a main factor in deciding whether to pursue the opening.
"I really missed Oklahoma, and I wanted to come back," Lewis said. "I took that opportunity and came back here."
Lewis now works as an industrial engineer at the FAA Logistics Center in Oklahoma City. She said the job entails managing many different projects, all of which are aimed to improve processes and lower cost for the FAA.
"She's an integral part in reviewing and analyzing projects, procedures and functions," said James Weinland, operations support branch manager for the FAA logistics center. "She helps to identify and recommend changes in processes in order to enhance productivity and lower cost for the FAA Logistics Center and, therefore, the government."
Weinland said Lewis brings a lot of "cooperation" and "enthusiasm" to the job--both of which are vital aspects to the industrial engineering position. He said her background at OU has given her good preparation for the workforce.
"She has all the technical skills--given her previous work experience and her masters in industrial engineering," Weinland said. "I think it's given her the background and the technical skills to succeed here."
Lewis' current project will have many benefits, Weinland said.
"It will be a positive thing for the logistics center and also for her career."
Lewis said she is also preparing to lead the United Way campaign for the logistics center in the fall.
"Basically, it's just raising money for the United Way campaign and hosting fundraisers and educating the employees about the benefits of United Way," she said.
A bright future
Lewis said all the projects provide her with the opportunity to work with people and for people on a daily basis. She said she enjoys working in the area of logistics because of its dedication to improving people's lives.
She said she has not looked far into the future, but she will continue trying to work with the OU community.
"I think it's really neat that I still get to interact with the university at work through the projects I'm doing," she said.
Weinland said Lewis' passion and dedication provide her with a bright future.
"She's a very positive person and she's a bright and good contributor to everything we do out here," he said.
Shehab said she expects Lewis to continue climbing the ranks in industrial engineering as long as she has the desire.
"I think, if she wants, she can go into high levels of management," she said. "The only barriers are her own wishes and desires."
As for Lewis, she said her college education is a major reason for her success.
"College really teaches you how to think and teaches you some of the core principles that you really need for your job, such as teamwork and interacting with others and critical thinking skills," she said.
Skills like these often make up the basic foundation of a successful career.
"I would say the world is what you make of it," she said. "I think success is measured on different scales."
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