March 13, 2024

Wayne State engineering student navigates her own college-to-career road course

Last October, Ashley Jones (left) was one of four STEAM Sports Foundation scholars who had the opportunity to participate in an immersion tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race weekend. (L-R) Kimberly Betty, Kettering University; TaiJaune Robinson, Design Release Engineer, GM Motorsports; Tanya Andres, Universal Technical Institute; and Taya Dinkins-Goldsmith, Oakland University.
Last October, Ashley Jones (left) was one of four STEAM Sports Foundation scholars who had the opportunity to participate in an immersion tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race weekend. (L-R) Kimberly Betty, Kettering University; TaiJaune Robinson, Design Release Engineer, GM Motorsports; Tanya Andres, Universal Technical Institute; and Taya Dinkins-Goldsmith, Oakland University.

DETROIT – From a very early age, Ashley Jones knew she wanted to work with cars or animals.

“I wanted to be a mechanic or a veterinarian,” she said. “Those are the two things I wanted to be.”

What she didn’t know then is that the career path she would eventually choose was — and still is — heavily male dominant with very few women, especially women of color, working as mechanical engineers in the automotive industry.

The daughter of interracial parents, Jones wishes there were more women like her in engineering. But being unique, as she calls it, is something that she has accepted since taking her first automotive technology class at Stevenson High School in Livonia.

“I feel more unique and valuable since I stood out at Stevenson as a minority female with my interests,” Jones said. “I’m used to being the only person who looks like me, I guess. It doesn’t really bother me that much, but I wish there were more people like me interested in the things that I like.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women went from 3% of the engineering workforce in 1970 to 15% in 2019; however, in mechanical engineering, they make up only 8.8% of today’s workforce, while men still dominate at 91.2%.

Jones, a senior at Wayne State University, will graduate in May with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. From there, she will transition from college to career, joining Ford Motor Co., where her mother, Jennifer Jones, has been an engineer for nearly 30 years.

“When I was a kid, not only would my mom bring cars home, she would also bring me to Take Your Child to Work Day,” said Jones, who has accepted a Ford College Graduate Program position as a product development engineer. “Ford had tons of stuff for all the kids, like sculpting with clay. Just walking around and seeing how big everything was really influenced me.”

Since high school, Jones has held three separate internships at Ford. After two years attending the Ford High School Science and Technology Program she was an unpaid Intern in homologation at Ford. Her two paid internships were In Vehicle Evaluation and Verification.

Currently, she’s with the Performance Driven Workforce as a paid driver for Ford’s Voice of Customer Fleet, tracking mileage accumulation and evaluating and recording observations of issues and performance. In her role, she has evaluated every Ford vehicle, including her favorite, the F-150 Raptor.

“I’ve driven that one through construction,” she said. “I felt like I was driving a tank, which I really thought was cool.”

Changing tires on a race car.
During her visit to Charlotte and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race last October, Ashley Jones snapped this photo of the Jordan Anderson Racing pit crew changing the tires on the No. 27 Chevrolet Camaro driven by Jeb Burton. 

Last year, Jones received the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation Scholarship, as well as the Wayne State-Minority Support Scholarship. She also earned the STEAM Sports Foundation Women of Color Scholarship, awarded annually to aspiring female engineers and technicians seeking careers in the automotive or motorsports industry. The $5,000 grant came with an immersion tour during a NASCAR race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway last October.

“One of the hosts told us that you could really feel the power of the vehicles through your chest because they’re so loud,” said Jones, who has received a total of 13 academic scholarships. “There was a definite difference between the race on Saturday and the next day with way more people and higher-performance cars.”

Already very involved in the engineering community, Jones has received most of her scholarships as an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers and Society of Women Engineers.

After earning an associate degree in engineering from Schoolcraft College, Jones knew she wanted to transfer to the Wayne State College of Engineering.

“During the summer of 2018, I attended an engineering program to check out Wayne State’s campus,” she said. “I liked how it wasn’t too big, but it also wasn’t small. I really liked the vibe and everything.”

Wayne State’s learning-by-doing classroom approach has been beneficial, said Jones, who appreciates the mentorship she’s received from Distinguished Professor Sean Wu, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Yara Almubarak, Ph.D.

“I like Dr. Yara’s design class because you’re making something from your ideas,” said Jones, who observed that WSU’s College to Career initiative — which seeks to provide every student with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to encounter the world, gain deeper insights and new perspectives — has helped prepare her for the next chapter in her work life.

“By doing the research and because of the way the class is set up, everything has its own order,” Jones said of the design class. “That will help me in the future. I’ll be able to figure out what my next steps have to be while designing something. I find that really useful.”

Almubarak predicts a bright future for Jones.

“Just from interacting with her in class, she already has a lot of knowledge in terms of fabrication. She even told me that she’s worked in a machine shop, fabricating and doing all of that stuff, which is something that you don’t see,” Almubarak said. “She has this unique interest, and she will stand out.”

Faculty spotlight

Contact

Bill Roose
Phone: 313-577-5699
Email: bill.roose@wayne.edu

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