Center for Manufacturing Excellence Receives Gifts from Milwaukee Tool

Wisconsin-based manufacturer delivered tool sets, equipment for UM students' use

UM engineering students Ashley Irons (left) and Vera Gardner (right) enjoy opening Milwaukee Tool packages as Satoka Watanabe (center), adjunct associate professor, shares the moment. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi received a generous gift Thursday (March 23) from Milwaukee Electric Tool Co.

Three representatives from one of the nation’s leading power tool manufacturers delivered more than a dozen toolboxes, power tools and accessories to the CME. University administrators and students welcomed the visitors and thanked them for the donations.

“The CME team is honored and humbled by this most generous gift from Milwaukee Tool,” said Scott Kilpatrick, CME associate director of internal operations. “We are thankful to the company leadership for their commitment to supporting our students and this manufacturing program.

“These tools will provide an outstanding environment for our students to use on a daily basis, and will hopefully be just the first step of many forms of collaboration between the university and Milwaukee Tool.”

A Brookfield, Wisconsin-based subsidiary of Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd., Milwaukee Tool is a manufacturer and marketer of professional, heavy-duty power tools and accessories. The company has three facilities in Mississippi: manufacturing operations in Greenwood and Jackson, and a distribution facility in Olive Branch.

Jack Bilotta, director of the company’s Greenwood plant, was accompanied by Chris Greer, continuous improvement manager at Greenwood, and Dale Russell Sr., manager of human resources at Greenwood.

“Our objective is to recruit the best talent possible and preferably people with Mississippi ties,” Bilotta said. “The addition of the CME and their growth strategy aligns very well with what our business needs. There is no question that Ole Miss is turning out some of the very best every year.”

Discussions leading to Thursday’s donation began last fall when company officials visited the center.

“Some members of the Milwaukee Tool leadership team visited the campus and immediately recognized the value in partnering with the university,” said William Nicholas, director of economic development at UM’s Insight Park.

“The donation of power tools and equipment helps cultivate brand awareness among students and provides Milwaukee Tool a great opportunity to hire some of our best and brightest after graduation. They provide an innovative company culture that will appeal to many of our students.”

The company’s engagement is not intended to be a one-year involvement, but to build a partnership that grows over the years, the representatives said.

The donation of tools will be crucial in supporting various labs and course projects that are part of the center’s program, Kilpatrick said.

“For example, when senior capstone teams are working on their final projects, they will be using the best tools available on the market,” he said. “From a functionality standpoint, it is hard to quantify how immensely helpful that will be.”

Additionally, from a cultural viewpoint, the Milwaukee Tool brand will be present in the minds of Ole Miss students, Kilpatrick said.

“This is a company that is a global leader in their industry but also has a very strong presence here in Mississippi,” he said. “This will certainly send an encouraging message to students about potential future professional opportunities with the company, as well.”

“We want the CME to have the very best of what is available in Mississippi,” Bilotta said. “A world-class facility should only have world-class equipment.”

UM administrators, faculty and students welcome representatives from Milwaukee Tool as they deliver power tools and equipment to the Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Pictured are (front row, from left), UM students Ashley Irons and Vera Gardner; Sakota Watanabe, adjunct associate professor; Cris Greer, continuous improvement manager for the company’s Greenwood plant; Chancellor Jeffery Vitter; Jack Bilotta, director of the Greenwood plant; and William Gottshall, CME interim director; and (rear, from left) Scott Kilpatrick, CME associate director of internal operations; Alice Clark, vice chancellor for university relations; William Nicholas, director of economic development at Insight Park; Tyler Biggs, CME admissions counselor; UM student James Halbrook; Dale Russell, manager of human resources at the Greenwood plant; and James Vaughan, CME director emeritus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Administrators anticipate future collaborations with Milwaukee Tool, Kilpatrick said.

“From the perspective of the CME, this is the type of partnership that can benefit all parties and clearly serves the mission of our center,” he said. “One of our primary goals is to support and serve manufacturers here in Mississippi, and an essential method that we use to accomplish that goal is to provide an educational and experiential program that prepares graduates to serve as leaders in the manufacturing industry.

“So the aim here is clear; we plan to provide Milwaukee Tool with talented graduates to help lead their operations while also exposing our students to fantastic career opportunities as well.”

Several CME students present expressed their appreciation for the new tools and equipment.

“This is like Christmas in so many ways,” said James Halbrook, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Madison. “Milwaukee Tool has given us everything we need and more to do our best work.”

Vera Gardner, a senior mechanical engineering major from Memphis, Tennessee, agreed.

“These will come in very handy as we complete our senior design capstone project,” she said. “We will definitely use the equipment in the production phase.”

Milwaukee Tools officials said they are certain UM graduates can and will find employment within the company’s Mississippi plants.

“We have a year-over-year need for the top engineering talent, adding as many as 10 or more to our facility each year,” Bilotta said. “We want to be a part of keeping Mississippi talent in Mississippi. It’s a ‘win-win’ for all involved.”

The Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence was established in June 2008 to provide unique opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The opportunities developed are considered distinctive to the CME and are not available to undergraduate students at other universities in the United States.

For more information about the CME, visit

For more information on the full line of Milwaukee power tools and accessories, call 1-800-SAWDUST or visit

UM Engineers Without Borders Returns to West Africa

Following successful crowdfunding campaign, team advances infrastructure project in Togo

UM geology and geological engineering professor Bob Holt (seated) consults with graduate student Vera Gardner (standing, left) about soil samples during a 2016 Engineers Without Borders trip to Togo. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Entering its sixth year of helping people of the West African nation of Togo build a sound infrastructure, the University of Mississippi chapter of Engineers Without Borders is continuing its work to help drill and complete a deep water well for a rural village.

Two faculty and six students are in the impoverished country through March 20, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign on Ignite Ole Miss last year. With help from more than 100 donors, the group surpassed its $20,000 goal for the effort.

The money enables members of EWB and School of Engineering faculty members to spend 18 days in Africa supervising the drilling of a well to provide clean water in the village of Akoumape. Rotary International is funding the project.

“Although the drilling project has been well planned, it may face some challenges,” said Cris Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering and faculty adviser for Ole Miss-EWB. “Last year, there were equipment issues. There is also the uncertainty of what may be buried underneath the surface once the drilling is underway.”

This year’s team includes Robert Holt, professor of geology and geological engineering; Paul Scovazzo, associate professor of chemical engineering and construction guru; Vera Gardner, a senior in mechanical engineering from Memphis; Zack Lepchitz, a graduate student in geological engineering from Keswick, Virginia; Luc Rebillout, a graduate student in computational hydroscience from France; Zach Bray, a senior in geological engineering from Iuka; Karl Brandt, a senior in civil engineering from Beverly, Massachusetts; and Benton Schenck, a senior in geological engineering from Earlyville, Virginia.

“Dr. Scovazzo, the grad students and I are going over first to assist the drillers at the site for the well,” Holt said. “In addition to supervising the drilling and making field adjustments to the well design, we will be collecting geological samples, monitoring the drilling of the borehole and casing installation, and conducting a pumping test to determine the aquifer properties.”

The well will be between 270 and 300 meters deep when it is completed.

“When it will actually be finished is uncertain,” Holt said. “Parts break. Repairs take time. We never know exactly what will happen during a drilling operation until it happens.”

The well will provide drinking water to a children’s hospital, which is being built by a nonprofit organization. EWB-Ole Miss is committed to drill the well and consult on the building of two water towers, a distribution pipe and a public tap stand.

Togolese driver Sewa (left) pumps water from an existing well while UM EWB team members (from left) Zack Lepchitz, Paul Scovazzo and Cris Surbeck read the label on the pump during last year’s EWB trip. Submitted photo

“It’s going to be an expensive effort requiring professional construction crews and electricians,” Surbeck said. “Several Rotary Clubs in Mississippi and Tennessee raised more than $100,000 for this particular project’s expenses.”

 The EWB-Ole Miss team made a long-term commitment in 2012 to work with rural villages in Togo to improve community infrastructure and health care. With five productive trips completed since that time, the EWB-Ole Miss team has built a school that provides a safe setting for dozens of children to learn and build better futures.

“All of these travelers, and countless other chapter members, have invested time, money and deeply committed efforts to see this project through to completion,” Surbeck said. “Faculty members donate all of their travel time without compensation.

“Participants are passionate about seeing this children’s hospital have clean water, which, in turn, will help health care workers care for sick children.”

The undergraduate students on this trip plan to write both a report for the national EWB organization and an article for publication in related academic journals, Holt said.

Dallas Baker Lands a Top Post at Neel-Schaffer

Mechanical engineering alumnus is new director of environmental services

UM Mechanical Engineering alum Dallas Baker is now the Director of Environmental Quality for Neel-Schaffer Inc. in Jackson. (Submitted photo)

Dallas Baker (BSME 93, MS 97) has retired from a longtime job, but he isn’t finishing working yet.

After serving nearly 24 years with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in a variety of roles, the mechanical engineering alumnus has joined Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson as the firm’s director of environmental services.

“I lead a team of engineers, geologists and technicians in assessing properties and facilities owned by clients who seek help in complying with environmental regulations, then provide engineering solutions to meet their business goals,” Baker said. “The diversity of the work and its people is what makes this firm strong and what attracted me to remain in Mississippi as a practicing engineer.”

Baker plans to enhance the capabilities of Neel-Schaffer’s environmental services to enable the firm to better serve a wider variety of industrial clients across the region.

“We are excited about Dallas Baker joining our firm to lead our environmental services,” said Keith O’Keefe, PE, senior vice president for Neel-Schaffer’s central Mississippi operations. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental engineering to our firm that will shape our growth in that discipline. Dallas is widely respected across the environmental landscape, and we look forward to having his vision and leadership.”

A registered professional engineer in the state of Mississippi, Baker most recently served MDEQ as air director and chief of its Air Division. There he was responsible for maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards and policies affecting statewide programs that control air pollution. In previous roles, he managed air and water permit projects for several industrial facilities in the energy, chemical, manufacturing and wood products sectors.

“In addition to establishing the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, my Ole Miss degree exposed me to leadership, business, liberal arts and other disciplines that gave me the confidence to seek organizational management roles,” he said. “It has led me to be a more versatile leader in the workplace and in professional associations, and influence operations that affect environmental engineering practices well beyond what I had expected.”

A native of Oxford, Baker attended the university because his father, John Baker, was a professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, who encouraged him to attend and major in professional studies of some sort.

“Mechanical engineering was the best fit, and I knew then a degree from Ole Miss would open doors that build a rewarding career,” Baker said.

As an undergraduate, Baker said he was privileged to study under many great professors. His favorite was Karl Brenkert, a former dean of the School of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“He spent significant time encouraging us to use an engineering degree to benefit society, as well as to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards,” Baker said. “He encouraged us to seek the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which led me to be a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Brenkert made a lasting impression on me and hundreds of students.”

Baker serves as secretary of the Ole Miss School of Engineering Advisory Board and president of the Mississippi Energy Coordinators Association. He was recently elected by his peers as international president of the Air & Waste Management Association, an organization of environmental professionals with over 100 chapters located in 65 countries.

“In my role as president, I lead its board of directors and (uphold) its stated mission and core purpose through strategic planning, sound financial management and exercising leadership principles I’ve acquired throughout my career, going back to my days at the university.”

Baker said the position was particularly gratifying because he was able to be an ambassador from the state of Mississippi and its flagship university to cities across America and countries such as Canada and China.

He is board certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and is a certified public manager.

Besides his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in environmental engineering from Ole Miss, Baker also earned an MBA from Mississippi College.

He and his wife, Marla, are the parents of two teenagers: Paris, 15, and William, 13. One of the family’s favorite annual trips is its vacation in Fort Myers, Florida, in the week between Christmas and returning to school after the New Year.

“We avoid winter where we can, even the Mississippi variety,” Baker said.

Baker’s father; mother, Shelly Baker; and sister Diane (BA 93), live in Austin, Texas.

“It’s a privilege to give back to a university that has meant so much to me and my family,” Baker said. “We bleed red and blue!”



Three Engineering Students Receive Outstanding Senior Leadership Awards

Adam Schildhammer, Dustin Dykes and Holly Pitts represent School of Engineering's best

Three students have been chosen as Outstanding Seniors in the UM School of Engineering. They are Adam Schildhammer (left), Dustin Dykes and Holly Pitts. (Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw)

Three University of Mississippi seniors have been named recipients of the 2016-17 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award in the School of Engineering.

Chosen are Dustin Dykes of Madison, Alabama; Holly Pitts of Indianola; and Adam Schildhammer of Alpharetta, Georgia. Each recipient was selected through a competitive nomination process in his or her respective department. Nominations are based on the students’ records of academic achievement, leadership, professional development and community service. The students also delivered a presentation to the selection committee about their undergraduate experiences while pursuing their engineering degrees.

“Adam, Holly, Dustin and the additional nominees represent some of the best and brightest students that Ole Miss Engineering has to offer,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “We are always excited to celebrate this tradition of recognizing outstanding students pursuing degrees within the School of Engineering.”

A civil engineering and general studies major (minors in studio art, mathematics and business), Pitts has maintained a 3.99 GPA as a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges, she serves as vice president of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council, the Institute of Transportation Engineers and Engineers Without Borders. Pitts also serves as president of Chi Epsilon civil engineering society and has been selected to Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership society and Tau Beta Pi engineering society.

She received the Outstanding Junior Award from the Department of Civil Engineering as well as the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from Order of Omega Greek honor society. She served as an intern with the Mississippi Grammy Museum and the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Pitts is involved with the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, serving as a Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Scholar. She has volunteered with RebelTHON and the Green Grove Initiative.

In addition to the leadership award, she was named the university’s representative to the Mississippi Engineering Society’s Outstanding Senior award program in Jackson. There she was also the recipient of a Mississippi Engineering Society scholarship. After graduation, Pitts plans to earn a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s in fine arts to combine her interests in engineering, business and art. She hopes to become an engineer for a custom fabrication and engineering company.

Dykes, a mechanical engineering major, has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Senior Scholarship. He serves as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and has served as secretary-treasurer of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council as well as vice president of the Baptist Student Union. He has been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi. He was also named to Who’s Who.

An active member of the Ole Miss Army ROTC, Dykes has served as battalion commander. In 2016, he was ranked as the No. 9 cadet in the nation and received the 2016 Association of the United States Army scholarship for top cadet in the nation. Dykes also received the National Defense Transportation Award in 2016 as well as the Society of American Military Engineers scholarship in 2014 and 2015.

He has volunteered with the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society and participated in the Oxford First Baptist Church choir.

After graduating summa cum laude, Dykes plans to be commissioned as a second lieutenant. He also hopes to attend graduate school to study aerospace engineering and serve as a U.S. Army test pilot.

A geological engineering major, Schildhammer was named the Outstanding Freshman in Geological Engineering in 2013. Since then, he has been named to the Chancellor’s and Dean’s honor rolls and has been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Order of Omega honor societies. Schildhammer serves as a teaching assistant for engineering geology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, and physical geology under professors Zhen Guo and Brian Platt. He has also participated in field camps in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

He has served as scholarship chairman for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, where he implemented a plan to increase his chapter’s GPA and received the Outstanding Scholar Award. He also assisted with the planning of the fraternity’s annual philanthropy, which raises funds for Batson Children’s Hospital. Additionally, Schildhammer has served as a team manager and practice player for the Ole Miss women’s basketball team.

He has plans to attend graduate school in petroleum or geological engineering.