Meet Young Alumna Courtney Oswald
M.S. Textile Engineering, December 2018
B.S. Textile Engineering, May 2018
Materials Developer at Under Armour
After experiencing the Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) program as a high schooler, Courtney Oswald chose the Wilson College of Textiles and never looked back. As a student, she participated in numerous extracurricular activities, forged great relationships and created amazing memories. She received a B.S. in Textile Engineering, then continued her studies for another semester to earn her Master’s in Textile Engineering.
Oswald now resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works for athletic apparel giant, Under Armour. We caught up with the former Centennial Scholar to see how the Wilson College of Textiles has influenced her career.
Why did you choose NC State/Wilson College of Textiles?
I always loved fashion and art, and for the longest time I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. Growing up, however, I realized how much I enjoyed math and science classes and realized that I wanted to pursue a job that would allow me to combine both of these ideas. I stumbled upon Textile Engineering while browsing online and saw that NC State offered this degree. I decided to apply to the STEP program and after spending a week at the Wilson College of Textiles, I knew that this was the place for me. The close knit relationship between the staff, faculty and students at the Wilson College of Textiles really made NC State feel like home. Then, I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of the ITT Roger Milliken Centennial Scholarship which allowed me to afford an out-of-state education. I can honestly say that coming to the Wilson College of Textiles is one of the best decisions I ever made.
What activities were (are) you involved in as a student at NC State?
I was involved as a student researcher at TPACC; a tutor at the Textiles Tutoring Center at the Wilson College of Textiles; a member of Kappa Tau Beta Leadership fraternity, theTextile Engineering Society, Sigma Tau Sigma Textile Honors Society and University Scholars Program. I also was a Centennial Scholar, University Scholars Ambassador, Wilson College of Textiles Ambassador and a part-time student worker for HanesBrands. I also had three internships: an Engineering Intern at Gildan Yarns, a Research and Development Intern at HanesBrands and a Research and Development Intern at ITG.
Who influenced you most during your time at the Wilson College of Textiles?
Dr. Joines was one of my main influencers during my time at the Wilson College of Textiles. He was my advisor, professor and mentor throughout my time at NC State. He helped me discover my love for research and development and helped me navigate securing several summer internships. He pushed me to work hard and achieve more than I thought possible during my time at NC State. I am so thankful for his guidance and jokes that always left me smiling whenever I ran into him in Wilson College. He is the busiest person I know, and yet he always made time to stop and say hi and offer help. Even after graduating, he inspires me to take the time to connect with others and to always offer my help and words of encouragement to everyone.
How did your education at the Wilson College of Textiles prepare you for what you are doing today?
The Wilson College of Textiles is truly the best place to prepare you for life in the textile industry. The classes I took as a textile engineer are the foundation of my job as a materials developer. Learning about every aspect of a textile and how it impacts the final product is something I use every day in my job. Understanding why a textile performs in a certain way by analyzing the fabric structure, yarn and fiber properties, and mechanical and chemical finishes is crucial to developing materials. Senior Design was a great class to learn how to ideate and work with a company to develop something both innovative and solution-oriented. Additionally, my work in TPACC as a student researcher helped me to understand material testing and data analysis which helps me navigate lab results and work closely with our lab partners when analyzing new materials.
Are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student that we can share with our current and future students?
Take advantage of manufacturing internships! It might not be what you want to do after college, but the knowledge you gain from working directly with the equipment and product is invaluable both to your knowledge of textiles in general and your ability to translate what you learn in the classroom to industry. I worked in a cotton and polyester spinning facility and it helps immensely to be able to understand all of the processes that are involved in yarn spinning and how each of those processes play a part in the final textile created. Additionally, save your textbooks and notes – I wish I had all of my notes from my fibers and fabrics classes that I could go back and reference. Those classes are more important than you realize and even tiny details could be major tools to help you create and problem solve in the future. Finally, be a sponge – soak up everything: the fun, the struggles and the information! This is the time to explore all your interests, learn everything you can and find your passion.
Describe your career path.
I was lucky enough to join Under Armour shortly after I graduated with my master’s degree. My TA in Thermodynamics recommended me to my manager as a candidate for the position, who reached out to me on LinkedIn. I had several phone and in-person interviews with future teammates and cross-functional partners, and I was offered the position soon after. I have an incredibly supportive team that I am honored to work with every day. They are brilliant, caring and some of the most dedicated people I know. I love that I am continuously learning something new every day in my job and that I am encouraged to innovate and explore my ideas. Coming from the Wilson College of Textiles, which always felt like family and home, I could not imagine a better job to begin my career in textiles.