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BYU Engineering Hosts First Toyota Day

The middle of the week became more interesting when three Toyota race cars drove onto campus. Students gathered to see the vehicles, as a new event was underway.

Photo by Sawyer Nunley

Tires rolled onto the sidewalk pavement, and one, two, three racing cars parked in front of the BYU engineering building. The drivers stepped out, tents were set up, and students gathered at the scene. Somehow, an event that should have taken half a year to plan had only taken one month. On Wednesday, November 9, for the first time, the BYU Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering hosted a Toyota Day.

A few years ago, manufacturing engineering professor Dr. Yuri Hovanski introduced SMART manufacturing methods and technologies to the college. The advanced technology assisted in the accumulation of much success for students and faculty. The department saw an overall improvement in learning, including one student whose SMART manufacturing innovation won first place in a national competition. Toyota noticed these significant changes, and they wanted to know more about what the college could offer.

Last spring, the college showcased their programs, diversity, and inclusion measures in a Zoom meeting with Toyota. It seemed like the right fit. “Their team had met with numerous other universities and the ABET accreditation committees,” said Hovanski. “Ultimately, BYU’s manufacturing department was recognized as a strategic place for Toyota to focus recruiting.”
The planning began. Several minds collaborated together to design how BYU Engineering and Toyota could develop a stronger connection. One first significant recommendation was to participate in the Capstone projects. Toyota seemed ecstatic about the offer, readily creating two projects and reserving more for the future. BYU Electrical & Computer Engineering External Relations Coordinator, Allyson Gibson, collaborated with the company throughout the process. “They've been very proactive and great to work with,” said Gibson.

However, they wanted to contribute more than that. BYU Engineering Career Director, Tony Jewkes, said that BYU Careers and Experiential Learning had hosted day-long events with other companies in the past. Perhaps, they thought, they could do one with Toyota. They presented this idea and learned that the company had organized such events with other schools. The two had reached the last puzzle piece: Toyota Day.

Other colleges took anywhere from six months to a year to organize a Toyota Day. By the time BYU Engineering had scheduled the event, they had less than a month for planning. “There were several meetings, a lot of calls, a lot of details to be ironed out, a lot of hoops to jump through,” Jewkes said. However, with the assistance of Assistant Dean Jim Trent, Hovanski, Employer Engagement Manager Todd Russell, career services employees, the external relations directors, and many Toyota employees, the event had a date, time, place, and more.

Toyota Production Engineering Co-op Coordinator, Shawna Johnson, played a key role in helping to organize the event. She expressed her excitement about the event's success in this LinkedIn post.

Aside from showcasing their cars, Toyota spent the day giving tech talks, engaging with students, and expounding upon the opportunities at their company. Mechanical engineering senior Dallin Bruschke had joined one of their Capstone teams and decided to attend the event. While he enjoyed the lectures, Bruschke gained more from actively talking to employees between scheduled events, rather than waiting for the designated networking time. The things he learned from his interactions surprised him. Toyota employs manufacturing engineers, but they also employ computer scientists, financial advisors, and others from a variety of fields. Bruschke said, “It was kind of eye opening how much diversity you can find within a company.”

During the networking event, the students could interact freely with the presenters and other participants. The students presented themselves well. They knew their discipline. They impressed Toyota, and unexpectedly, the company made multiple job offers that night.

“We couldn't be more thrilled with the day, and they couldn't either,” Jewkes said. “It's fun to see and hear their reactions to their experience—some of which they can't quite put their finger on, as you might be able to imagine. There's something special about BYU.”

The college has high-hopes for next year, when they host the event again. Until then, they look forward to continuing growing their relationship with Toyota.