There’s an adage in alumni engagement: the alumni couple who volunteers together, stays together. Chris (MAeroEngr’18) and Jannine Rouw (EngrPlus’18) are Buffs through and through and have been devoted volunteers to the College of Engineering and Applied Science from the moment they graduated. The Rouws were some of the first alumni to join the CEAS Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) Board and have volunteered for numerous organizations over the last two years: the University of Colorado Engineering Council, American Society for Engineering Management, speakers at the Ring and Pin Ceremony, and numerous other opportunities. To learn more about their backgrounds and what motivates them to give back to the College of Engineering, we sat down (virtually) with the Rouws.
How did you two meet?
We first met fall of 2014 while working at the Colorado Space Grant Consortium on a CubeSat project, PolarCube. We were both pulled onto the project and started seeing each other from time to time through spring 2015 and then really got to know each other summer of 2015. That first summer the two of us, along with several other members of our team, spent many months getting our satellite ready for a vibration test at the Air Force Research Laboratory facility down in New Mexico and a Micro-Gravity Flight (“vomit comet”) at Johnson Space Center in Houston. We bonded that summer and have been best friends ever since!
Did both of you always intend on working at Ball Aerospace? What’s the best part about working with your significant other?
We both had always heard great things about Ball Aerospace but to be honest, when we started our search, we weren't really sure where we wanted to go to start our careers. Ball was always one of our dream-job locations though, so when it came time to finally applying, we both jumped on it. Funny story: Jannine was offered a position first, while Chris had accepted a position with a different aerospace company that later fell through before graduation. This allowed Chris to apply and accept a position with Ball as well.
One of the key perks to working together, or at least on very similar programs, is that we both understand the stress and commitment needed to support testing spacecraft systems. We understand when one of us plans to be home by 3 p.m. but we're required to stay at work late due to an unforeseen hardware anomaly, as well as supporting non-traditional work schedules at times. It's not always easy, but having the other person not only support you but understand what you are going through helps us stay sane during tough test campaigns.
Why has it been important for both of you to volunteer your time and give back to the College of Engineering and Applied Science?
Many of our fondest memories are from our time at CU. Looking back at our experience, neither of us would have made it where we are today if it weren't for the various volunteers and mentors who dedicated their time to support us as students. Career panel sessions, BOLD Center industry speakers, student organizations such as SWE and SHPE, and Space Grant reviews with alumni — these are just a few examples that helped us grow professionally and find our dream jobs at Ball. Volunteering with the college also helps us stay in touch with the various programs we were once a part of and enables us to give back to the current generation of students, something we plan to do for many years to come.
How has your experience been as GOLD Board members, and what are you hoping to accomplish through your work on the board?
We were both very excited to hear the College of Engineering was re-forming the GOLD Board. We both joined because we believed it would be a valuable way to give back to the college and help advance the initiative for a strong engineering alumni community. Two things we hope we can help the GOLD Board accomplish are: connecting our vast network of alumni to our current students, and to build a strong alumni network for us all to lean on and work with once we graduate.
Many of the departments within the college are already tapping into their alumni for support, and we hope the GOLD Board can help consolidate some of those efforts and ensure all departments have the resources required to help support current students with their alumni base. By working with the GOLD Board, we are also excited to see a strong emphasis on the young professionals that are joining industry and provide a network for them to work with as they begin to define their career paths. Being young professionals ourselves, we realize many of us may change companies, industries, or entirely shift our career focus. We hope building and fostering the network of alumni will help young professionals navigate some of those challenges and for alumni to continue helping each other even after graduation.
What have been your highlights of serving as alumni volunteers?
Chris: I think my highlight has been seeing the energy and the enthusiasm of the students. In April, Jannine and I were judges for the Colorado Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Symposium, and we were blown away by the creativity and perseverance of the students even under the tough circumstances of the current global pandemic.
Jannine: Knowing that you're making a direct impact on the students of the college. Last fall, we volunteered to conduct in-person resume reviews at the AeroSpace Ventures Night. During our open discussion, I was very candid about my personal and academic struggles going through undergrad. A couple of students approached me at the end of the night and told me how my story had really resonated with their personal journey and how they needed to hear that someone in their shoes had made it. I was completely taken aback and realized the event was worth every second of my time knowing I had encouraged at least one student to continue pushing and persevering through engineering school.