Chemical Engineering Alumnus Establishes Endowed Scholarship

Gift helps support chemical engineering students from counties surrounding Greenville

Chemical engineering alumnus Ike Brodofsky (right) and his wife, Amanda Trabue, have created an endowed scholarship in the UM School of Engineering. (Submitted photo)

When it comes to generosity toward the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, Ike Brodofsky (BSChE 03) and his wife, Amanda Trabue, are shining examples.

The couple recently established the Ike Brodofsky and Amanda Trabue Engineering Scholarship Endowment for chemical engineering students from Washington, Humphries, Sunflower, Leflore, Bolivar, Sharkey or Issaquena counties. The duo set up a scholarship, matched by Bridgestone, paid over five years until 2021.

Giving to higher education comes naturally for the pair. Both from large families, they know that paying for college expenses can be tough. Brodofsky came to the university largely because of the financial package UM offered him.

“I had always wanted to give back in some way to Ole Miss, but I never seemed to get over the hump to actually do anything,” Brodofsky said. “Having (my wife) guide me really helped, and in the end I realized that it was all in my head, and that I wish I had given back much earlier. We wanted to help those students realize their dream of a college degree.”

Trabue echoed her husband’s sentiment.

“I had already established a scholarship at my alma mater,” said the Glasgow, Kentucky, native who graduated with a B.A. in marketing in 2002 and an MBA in 2004 from Western Kentucky University. “I encouraged Ike that it was time to start one at his alma mater as well.”

A native of Greenville, Brodofsky said he instinctively knew he belonged at UM. His father and sister are also alumni, so it was a pretty easy decision for him to make.

“I loved the student-to-faculty ratio at Ole Miss, so I knew all of my professors quite well,” he said. “It was a well-rounded group, from Dr. (Randell) Price and his quirkiness to Dr. (Peter) Sukanek and his toughness to Dr. (Clint) Williford taking us on coffee breaks to wake up for his early morning reactions course to Dr. (John) O’Haver’s friendly conversations.”

Brodofsky remembers one of his favorite courses was Thermodynamics.

“It teaches you to see everything as simple algebra and builds problem-solving skills,” he said. “To this day, I use that philosophy in my career and try to tackle all problems by breaking it down into simple equations.”

A second course that truly challenged Brodofsky was Chemical Process Principles.

“It’s a decision course in that it forces you to quickly realize if you want to pursue this career,” he said. “It was not easy and not my favorite, but the challenge presented makes you quickly realize that even if you aren’t the brightest in the class that you can do this if you follow the teaching and seek help from the readily available faculty.”

Brodofsky is a senior process engineer for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. Trabue is an associate dean for development and alumni relations at Vanderbilt University. The couple lives in Nashville.

“I am involved with developing rubber formulas for tires of all sizes from tiny car tires to massive mining tires and scaling up those formulas to production volumes,” Brodofsky said. “There is also a great deal of troubleshooting for day-to-day issues that arise in a manufacturing setting.”

Brodofsky said his Ole Miss engineering education has proven invaluable to him on the job.

“You must be able to quickly handle these problems and find the optimal solution without sacrificing safety, quality or production,” he said. “My education gave me a lot of confidence to tackle these problems. Chemical engineering builds a strong base in being able to define a problem. If you can define it, then you can solve it.”

Brodofsky and Trabue both travel frequently for work, so one of their hobbies is taking weekend getaways with their travel points to relax. They also enjoy trying new restaurants and activities and being tourists in their own city with the many events and activities Nashville has to offer.

“We have season football tickets to both our schools, so we are on the go nonstop during the football season traveling between Oxford and Bowling Green to watch the Rebels and the Hilltoppers,” he said.

“What a great example of the legacy our professors help to foster with our students,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the engineering school. “Ike and Amanda creatively combined their gratitude for home by paying tribute to the chemical engineering department and counties surrounding Greenville in the Mississippi Delta, thereby creating an engineering endowment scholarship. We are grateful for their sacrifice and passionate desire to help move Ole Miss from great to greater.”

With this gift, the School of Engineering Scholarship Committee will be able to select a deserving student who has demonstrated an exceptional academic record and remained in a major track in engineering at the university.

Dean Alex Cheng said the donation has already proven very beneficial to the program.

It was during an engineering tailgating that I was introduced to Amanda and Ike,” Cheng said. “We chatted, and I was surprised by such passion and goodwill coming from a relatively young couple.


‘Leadership and Professionalism’ Course Enhances Students’ Career Skills

Fall offering features guest speakers, out-of-classroom activities

Students in Senior Leadership Class always enjoy a variety of activities, including trips away from campus. (Submitted photo)

Companies often use a transcript as validation of “aptitude” but then use an interview to evaluate “attitude.” How does an engineering school teach attitude to the millennial generation? Students born between the early ’80s and 2000 may have very different views on cultural identity, politics, workplace expectations and technology. For the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, the attitude advantage continues to be delivered through the ENGR 400 “Leadership and Professionalism” course.

Forty-five students come to class each Friday in the fall, anxious to hear words of wisdom from a variety of guest speakers. Every semester offers a different lineup of speakers, panel discussions, events and activities.

“The class this year has been very enriching,” said David Phelts, a senior geological engineering major from Atlanta, Georgia. “Being able to listen and learn from many successful alumni and leaders in the community is something I would never have been able to get from a textbook. I’m confident I will be able to apply the valuable lessons learned from great guest speakers we’ve had this fall as I make my transition to the professional world.”

From military leadership philosophy to corporate engineering, entrepreneurial startups and success stories to U.S. congressional leadership, municipal leadership, international humanitarian leadership, from young alumni to seasoned professionals, and everything in between, students gain a new attitude about leadership and professionalism through this course. Co-taught by Dean Alex Cheng and Assistant Dean Marni Kendricks, students are challenged to define their professional goals and leadership aspirations by the end of the semester.

Reading John Maxwell’s “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,” students have the opportunity to assess these qualities in their lives and improve themselves. Networking with the Engineering Advisory Board, participating in the Fall Career Fair and a team-building afternoon at the Rebel Challenge Course, attending business etiquette luncheons, giving 60-second impromptu elevator pitches, and practicing mock interviews and business correspondence are all part of their professional development, one of the major goals of the course.

Technical skills, soft skills and leadership skills are distinct terms used in the workplace. It is assumed that all engineers have the first skill set accomplished by the time they graduate.

“Having the benefit of an engineering school in the middle of a liberal arts university where social life is such a significant part of the campus, we believe soft skills naturally develop to some extent,” Kendricks said. “Leadership skills can always be enhanced, but for 21- to 22-year-olds, hearing heart-to-heart words of wisdom and encouragement on a weekly basis from a wide variety of leaders is like signing up for a class but receiving a bar of 24 carat gold … far better than just an A.”

If interested in speaking to this class, please contact Marni Kendricks,

UM School of Engineering Teams with Tech Firms for STEM Initiative

New E2I programs aim to attract underserved youth and educators to university

Civil engineering professor and CAIT Director Waheed Uddin (center) is the UM point of contact for a developing partnership between the School of Engineering and GroupNotions LLC.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and two technology companies are working together to create a program aimed at attracting more underrepresented youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

The engineering school, in partnership with GroupNotions LLC and Group HI LLC, is launching Engineering and Innovation Initiative, or E2I, programs to increase the number of underrepresented students interested in pursuing STEM careers, ultimately increasing workforce diversity.

E2I programs will include meeting and working with faculty, alumni and industry leaders to provide opportunities for 10th-grade students and high school teachers to gain insights into the type of science, engineering, technology and manufacturing jobs and skill sets that will be in demand in coming years.

Initially, the programs will include students and educators in Mississippi, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

“We are very excited to work with GroupNotions and Group HI,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM School of Engineering. “Collaborating with these advanced technology companies to provide a new approach for students and educators is a potential game changer for our school and will enable us to learn how to inspire future generations best.”

Based in Honolulu, GroupNotions teams with distinguished institutions and large corporations to develop and position advanced security and surveillance nanotechnologies. An Anchorage, Alaska-based firm, Group HI designs and shapes advanced nanotechnology solutions for the military, transportation and critical infrastructure industries.

An E2I advisory board, composed of government, institution, industry and community leaders, is being formed to address operational and financial support for the program. Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Technology, will represent Ole Miss on the board.

Representatives from both firms said they are excited about collaborating with the university.

“This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with a major global institution that shares our vision of increasing workforce diversity in advanced technologies,” said Dan Akiu, managing partner for GroupNotions and executive director and a member of the E2I Core Team.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit

For more about GroupNotions and Group HI, go to and

Cooper Tire ‘Dream Team’ Visits UM

Manufacturer donated tire cutaway display to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Representatives from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. meet with UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence administrators and staff recently. Present were (front, from left) Scott Kilpatrick, Ross Blare, Jessica Sinak, Nicole Williams, Robert Haggerty, (back, from left) Ryan Miller, Tyler Biggs, Josh Lavanway, Matthew Fulmer and Randy Moore. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Expanding upon an already solid relationship with the University of Mississippi, the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. “Dream Team” visited the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence on Wednesday (Feb. 15).

Led by plant manager Robert Haggerty, six rising, early-career employees from the manufacturing firm’s Tupelo facility met with CME administrators and School of Engineering faculty members for an extended discussion and tour of the center. The Cooper group donated a sectional tire display, which shows the various layers of an SUV tire manufactured at the company’s Arkansas plant.

“Cooper Tire is a leading manufacturer with deep roots in Mississippi,” said Scott Kilpatrick, CME associate director of internal operations. “This concept certainly aligns with the mission of the CME in providing support to new and existing manufacturers in our state.

“This display will be important in demonstrating not only Cooper Tire makes their products, but it will also remind out students that there are exciting career paths available through the manufacturing sector right here in Mississippi.”

The “Dream Team” is a group of employees who visit middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities to inform students of career opportunities in manufacturing and with Cooper, Haggerty said.

Ole Miss chemical engineering alumni Nicole Williams, a Master SigmaSix Blackbelt; and Jessica Sinak, tire engineer; are on the team. Other members include Randy Moore, liability lead; Ross Blare, wire assembly utility; Josh Lavanway, VMI MAXX operator; and Matthew Fulmer, mechanical engineer.

“Through the ‘Dream Team,’ Cooper wants to show bright young students that they can find rewarding manufacturing opportunities right here in Mississippi,” Haggerty said. “Through automation in daily operations, we’re improving both the quality and increasing the quantity of tires we make.”

Sinak and Williams briefly explained the tire manufacturing process.

“Operators load raw materials into a mixing machine,” Sinak said. “Once the machine mixes the materials into rubber, it goes on to materials preparation, where the various tire components are made.”

The components go from material preparation into the VMI MAXX equipment.

“Inside the VMI MAXX, robots assemble the components into what we call a ‘green tire,” Williams said. “The green tires then go into a curing process where they are heated. Once they are done, the tires go to the finishing process.”

The VMI MAXX can assemble all the components into a “green” tire in seconds, Haggerty said.

“Each and every tire is placed on a test wheel, inspected and quality-checked before it is sent off to our warehouses,” he said. “Our goal is to build the best tire we possibly can in the fastest manner possible.”

The company’s longevity and the consistent quality of its products are cause for celebration, said Ryan Mille, CME associate director.

“Manufacturing, such as occurs at Cooper, has been ongoing in Mississippi for a long, long time,” Miller said. “The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence certainly want to continue contributing to the state’s economic growth by producing graduates who find stable jobs within the state of Mississippi.”

The CME was established in June 2008 to provide opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The center is developing interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that provides students with the practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative skill sets needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.

Cooper’s U.S. history dates back to 1914, when brothers-in-law John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart purchased M and M Manufacturing Co. in Akron, Ohio, producing tire patches, tire cement and repair kits. In 1915, Schaefer and Hart purchased The Giant Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, a tire rebuilding business, and two years later moved the business to Findlay, Ohio. The firm changed its name to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in 1946, and by July 11, 1960, the company became a publicly held corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more information about the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, visit For more information about Cooper Tire, go to