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College of Engineering alumni honored for career success

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


MANHATTAN—The Kansas State University College of Engineering will honor 10 alumni for professional career accomplishment during the first 20 years following their graduation. The honorees will be recognized at ceremonies April 21. 

Recipients of the college's Professional Progress Award were nominated by their respective department heads and confirmed by Darren Dawson, dean of engineering. 

The following are the 2018 Professional Progress Award honorees:

Kyle McKinzie, Altamont, is a 2008 graduate of Kansas State University in biological and agricultural engineering. He is manager of drivetrain controls and systems engineering for John Deere Coffeyville Works in Coffeyville, where he leads a development team for transmission control software for John Deere construction and forestry equipment, as well as supporting John Deere hybrid powertrain systems architecture and vehicle systems integration. In his 10 years with John Deere, he has engineered current production products, served as a Six Sigma process pro and led technical development of new, hybrid electric drivetrain hardware. This work has led to 12 U.S. patents issued, with eight patent applications pending. He has been involved in recruiting for John Deere at the university for the past six years, and during this time helped John Deere fill more than 30 internships and 15 full-time positions with Kansas State University engineers.

David McPherson, Lawrence, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University in mechanical engineering. He currently owns and operates MCP Engineering LLC, which provides engineering consulting services for capital improvement projects in a wide variety of industrial manufacturing fields, including automotive, fiberglass, food and beverage, and general material handling. Previously, McPherson served as director of engineering for Shick Esteve, formerly Shick Solutions, where he presided over development of a multidiscipline engineering department. His efforts helped earn the company the Missouri Chamber of Commerce Fast Track Award for 2014, recognizing the company's 80 percent revenue growth over the previous years. 

Jason Kieffaber, Louisburg, is a 2004 graduate of Kansas State University in electrical and computer engineering. He also has a master's degree in engineering management from the University of Kansas. He has recently accepted a role as a technical program manager with SpaceX in Los Angeles, where he will be responsible for coordinating and managing various engineering groups developing the Falcon 9, Dragon and Falcon Heavy rocket engine platforms. He has worked for United Technologies as a senior engineering manager for the Airbus A350 electronic thrust reverser system in London before moving to Amazon in Seattle as a technical program manager for the Kindle Advertising Products group and, most recently, the Amazon Assistant mobile application. He also has been an engineering manager for Telephonics in New York on the U.S. Air Force AWACS Interrogator Program. 

Matt McPherson, Olathe, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University in construction science and management. He is president and CEO of McPherson Contractors Inc., a commercial general contractor, construction manager and developer in Topeka. As a second-generation company leader, he has held every role within the organization, and currently oversees more than 120 full-time field and office employees, of which more than 15 percent are Kansas State University graduates. As leader of the company, he provides management support for projects across the Midwest and Western U.S. He is actively involved in several local businesses, serving on boards of directors and advisory councils in the community. Under his leadership, McPherson Contractors creates an environment for employees to flourish and helps to build and strengthen communities through service and philanthropic support. 

Joe Schrick, Olathe, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University in electrical engineering. He is vice president of Garmin International Inc. fitness segments located at its U.S. headquarters in Olathe. His responsibilities include leading the fitness segment engineering team with more than 400 worldwide team members, providing strategic guidance for product road maps and managing profit and loss for the $800 million business. For the past 19 years, Schrick has worked for Garmin in various roles, including design engineer, team leader, director of engineering for the outdoor and fitness teams, and business segment leader for outdoor and fitness. He successfully led the company into many new outdoor and fitness markets, including golf, dog tracking and training, action cameras and most recently, wellness. 

Ashok Reddy, Broomfield, Colorado, is a 2001 graduate of Kansas State University in computer science. He is founder and CEO of BETSOL in Broomfield. BETSOL, with customers and offices in both the U.S. and India, has grown to more than 250 employees through acquisitions and organic growth. It also owns other brands such as Rebit for back up and LETO for development operations. Before founding BETSOL, Reddy was director for Avaya Services Research and Development, where he led teams across the globe. A strong supporter of Kansas State University over the years, BETSOL has donated $40,000 to the university's scholars program, is engaged with mentoring and offering internships to Kansas State University students and hiring its graduates. 

Damian Buessing, Orlando, Florida, is a 2001 graduate of Kansas State University in architectural engineering. He is the southeast region director of operations for Hensel Phelps, a nationwide full-service building contractor. Previously, he held positions of operations manager, superintendent and project manager in the Southern California region, primarily in the health care market sector. His responsibilities include oversight of all project management, procurement, recruiting and employee engagement, and all aspects of field operations for his region. Buessing served on the construction science advisory board for six years and actively advocates at local high schools on behalf of Kansas State University to increase admissions within the engineering program. He also serves on the board of Team Michelle and Friends, a nonprofit group dedicated to eliminating breast cancer and helping those who suffer from its effects. 

Steven Lillehaug, Chanhassen, Minnesota, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University in civil engineering. He is city engineer and director of public works for Shakopee, Minnesota, where he leads and manages engineering, streets, parks, utilities and fleet divisions of this growing suburb of 41,000. For the past two decades, Lillehaug has focused on municipal, transportation and highway engineering, mainly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. He is also a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Army and was a Chanhassen planning commissioner from 2002-2004. Lillehaug is a licensed engineer in the state of Minnesota as well as a certified professional traffic operations engineer. He is an active member of the City Engineers Association of Minnesota and a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the American Public Works Association, numerous other technical advisory and steering committees, and American Legion Post 580. 

Manoj Chopra, Dallas, Texas, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University with a doctorate in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering. He has a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India, and a master's degree from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. Presently, Chopra is vice president of strategic pricing at Essilor of America, the world's largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses. His responsibilities include pricing optimization and analytics. Before joining Essilor, Chopra was vice president of pricing and promotions at Michaels Stores. He regularly uses industrial engineering techniques to improve processes as well optimization methods to maximize revenue and profitability. His previous career experience also includes design and implementation of supply chain optimization for various industries. 

Laura Winks, Houston, Texas, is a 1999 graduate of Kansas State University in chemical engineering. She is the global basic chemicals financial planning manager in the Chemical Company at the ExxonMobil Houston campus. She began her career with Exxon at the Baytown Chemical Plant, holding multiple positions in technical, business coordination, turnarounds/projects and maintenance. In 2004, Winks joined the Edison, New Jersey, plant in support of lubricant-base stock production, relocating back to Houston in 2006 into several sales and marketing positions within the intermediates and synthetics organization. She had most recently served as as the Americas' polyethylene product manager. Winks supports the advancement of women in engineering at ExxonMobil through the Chemical Company women's leadership team and serves as a mentor in the Houston campus women's interest network. She has led the chemical engineering recruiting team at Kansas State University and has served on the advisory committee for the chemical engineering department.


Professional Progress Award

News tip

Altamont, Lawrence, Louisburg and Olathe, Kansas; Broomfield, Colorado; Orlando, Florida; Chanhassen, Minnesota; and Dallas and Houston, Texas.

Written by

Mary Rankin