Ohio students studying science of paper industry

CINCINNATI - Studying paper science at Miami University - yes, paper science - might not sound like the most thrilling subject for today's college student.

But if that student wants a job, it will do just fine.

Miami is one of only eight schools in the country to offer the concentration, with a track record that is crystal clear: Every graduate of the program finds a job.

This year, the average salary for 11 graduates is $66,000.

"It's definitely a good industry to get into," said Shannon Wooliver of Anderson Township, who graduated from Miami in May and will start a job with Parker Hannifin Corp. in July. "They have 100 percent job placement. In today's market, that was a big thing for me."

Paper science at Miami is no longer a major.

It's now a concentration within chemical and paper engineering.

Students also can minor in paper engineering.

With about 75 students at Miami now, the program has hit the sweet spot that university administrators covet: Donations that fund scholarships, few competitors, internship connections with companies and a growing job market for graduates.

The crown jewel is a $3.5 million Paper Science and Engineering Foundation, funded by paper companies and alumni, that has paid out $270,000 to nearly 60 students this year.

That's on top of any federal aid, Miami aid or private scholarships those students may have received.

"It worked out really well for me," said Steve Sena, a 1994 Miami graduate who now works in sales for Ashland Inc.

"The promises just seemed so unreal. I didn't really believe them, but they came true. It's ready-made for someone to be successful."

The foundation is a legacy of the critical mass of paper companies that once populated the Miami Valley - dubbed "Paper Valley."

While many of the paper mills have closed, the industry still has a presence here and the foundation feeds Miami graduates into that group of companies.

In return, the paper companies get a steady flow of trained employees.

Graduates typically work in paper plants or provide sales or service to the industry or to contractors.

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