HBCU Co-ops Gain Valuable Experience at Honda
Each year, students come to Honda seeking to expand their education with a real-world, hands-on experience.
This year, Honda welcomed the most students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) yet, drawing on their education and perspectives while giving them a well-known name on their resume. In addition to the experience gained while working, the co-ops welcomed from HBCUs got a bonus: a mentor through the AARCH (African American Resource Collaborative of Honda) Business Resource Group (BRG). The program came toward the end of their summer term, and offered co-ops another contact who could share their experience and widen their network.
“The Honda mentor program is important as it provides our greatest corporate asset, people, with a mentorship support structure,” said Will Walton, business unit head and vice president, Power Equipment, American Honda. “In the case of the HBCU co-ops and BRG AARCH mentors, it provides a platform for Honda corporate culture transfer to the co-ops and ideation feedback from the co-ops to Honda. It truly is a system that creates positive growth for all parties involved.”
Jackson State student Lesley Kitchens said the program has given her additional insight. “Not only does my mentor answer my questions, but he gives me extra information to provide deeper insight,” the computer engineering major said. “That has helped me out a lot and put things into perspective to further my education and my career.”
Kitchens was a co-op for Honda of America Mfg. (HAM) in the North American Quality Division. She faced some challenges due to the pandemic, but still managed to learn a lot. In fact, Kitchens worked on a warranty project as well as a project to use analysis conducted by Ohio State University students through the capstone program.
“Working with the capstone project really gave me the opportunity to see how Honda works with others,” she said. “It broadened my understanding of how Honda works with others and I was able to have a say in it.”
Kristina Kennedy of the Honda-Ohio State Partnership was impressed by the work she saw from Kitchens. “This summer, Lesley worked to help create the data and structure to support two new Ohio State Business Analytics projects,” she said. “Her efforts contributed to the approval of these projects, which will kick off in the fall semester. Lesley is intelligent, poised, professional, and a clear communicator. I am impressed with her and am thankful our paths crossed this summer.”
“Lesley was instrumental in preparing the materials for the OSU Capstones and contributed to their acceptance by the professor,” agreed HAM associate Bob Voyles, Kitchens’ mentor. “I am very impressed with her intuitiveness, intelligence, and seeking to understand what drives something. I hope that she considers Honda upon graduation.”
At Honda Engineering North America (EGA), North Carolina A&T mechanical engineering major Zaniyah Dock also saw changes to her co-op term due to the pandemic. But she learned a lot on the Weldability team.
“This experience will help with my decisions in the future,” she said. “In the past, I’ve done designing within HVAC systems and this time I got into the automotive side. It’s definitely an area I can see myself pursuing after college. This has taught me I love a hands-on experience. I wasn’t just at my desk doing busy work. I was in the lab making progress on projects. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my preferences that will help me figure out my future.”
Central State manufacturing engineering major Emmanuel Dorvil said he developed a network during his co-op term at Honda that could help him in the future.
“The highlight of my time here has been the support system and network I’ve developed,” he said. “From my department counterparts, mentors and AARCH mentor to my fellow co-ops.”
Kitchens shared the same experience with the AARCH mentor program. “It was so nice and helpful,” she said. “What a great village to have.”