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K-State News
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Carl R. Ice College of Engineering alumni honored for early career success

Monday, Feb. 21, 2022



MANHATTAN — The Kansas State University Carl R. Ice College of Engineering will honor 10 alumni for significant early to mid-career success. The honorees will be recognized at an award celebration March 5.

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

The following are the 2022 Professional Progress Award honorees:

Slade Engstrom, Benton, is a 2003 graduate of Kansas State University in civil engineering. Engstrom, a licensed professional engineer and professional traffic operations engineer, is currently senior vice president/principal in the TranSystems Wichita office. Engstrom has worked at TranSystems since graduating high school. He is involved in a variety of professional organizations associated with his civil engineering degree, including the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Institute of Transportation Engineers, ITS Heartland and American Public Works Association. Engstrom is actively involved in a number of Kansas Department of Transportation and city of Wichita projects, as well as many national projects. He is a K-State Alumni Association life member and supporter. He is married to Jill Engstrom, a fellow alumnus he met in Moore Hall as a freshman, and has two daughters.

Philip Sears, Manhattan, is a 2003 graduate in computer science and 2012 MBA graduate from Kansas State University. He is currently the vice president of quality engineering solutions at SQA Group, a Providence, Rhode Island-based consulting and technology services company. Sears oversees the quality engineering practice and provides leadership for solutions and delivery. He started his career as an intern at Kansas State University and continued for 14 years at K-State Information Technology Services. During his tenure at K-State, he was a lead application developer, managed software development and quality assurance teams, and taught a management information systems course. Sears worked for seven years at Xpanxion, a software consulting company. At Xpanxion, he was a consultant on several accounts before moving into senior management. He has served on the management and management information systems advisory board at K-State.

John Mudd, Olathe, is a 1998 graduate of Kansas State University in mechanical engineering. He has a master's degree in engineering management from the University of Kansas. He is currently the associate director of product engineering and design at Garmin International in Olathe. Mudd started as a mechanical design engineer at Garmin in 2001, working on a variety of consumer electronics products before becoming a mechanical engineering team leader in 2008, serving the outdoor and fitness business segments. Mudd has served on the mechanical engineering industry advisory council at K-State from 2014 to 2020, as well as representing Garmin as a mentor in the Engineering Leadership and Innovation Program at K-State since 2017.

Emily Tilgner, Prairie Village, is a 2003 graduate of Kansas State University in architectural engineering. She leads McCownGordon's engineering services department, which specializes in mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and building commissioning services. With a background in engineering design and a licensed professional engineer designation in multiple states, Tilgner's expertise in project planning, design management, construction administration, cost management and occupancy integration brings a specialized insight to her projects. Tilgner is a current advisory board member for Rockhurst University's civil and mechanical engineering department, past board member for the Regnier Family Wonderscope Children's Museum of Kansas City, and has been involved in organizations like the Urban Land Institute of Kansas City and KC Design Group within her community.

Brian Truskett, Wichita, is a 2001 graduate of Kansas State University in construction science and management. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with Eby Construction in its Austin, Texas, office, where he spent the next four years working as a field engineer on heavy infrastructure projects. In late 2004, Truskett and his wife, Cristy, moved back to Wichita so he could continue with Eby at its corporate headquarters. In 2015, Truskett was promoted to business development manager, where he now focuses on building relationships within the community and forging partnerships with business owners, architects, engineers and subcontractors. Truskett represents Eby in the various nonprofit organizations he works with, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas, the United Way and the Salvation Army. In addition, he has enjoyed being Eby's representative on the K-State campus with regular recruiting trips.

Nicolette Dudley Jackson, Livermore, Colorado, is a 2005 graduate of Kansas State University in biological and agricultural engineering. She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 2009 and a master's degree from Texas A&M University in 2013, which she completed during her residency in anatomic and cardiovascular pathology. She is currently the director of medical device pathology for Inotiv, a leading contract research organization specializing in drug and medical device discovery and development. She evaluates preclinical medical device studies involving orthopedic implants, cardiovascular devices, gastrointestinal staplers and wound healing treatments while also assisting in developing study designs and protocols. Ultimately, her reports are submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine the safety and efficacy of medical devices prior to approval for human use.

Vinit Gupta, Novi, Michigan, is a 2002 graduate of Kansas State University with a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering. He currently holds the position of vice president, operations at ITC Holdings and is responsible for control room and system operations that support ITC's four operating companies, safety, human performance, security, emergency preparedness and response, and ITC's NERC compliance program. Before joining ITC, he worked at Entergy, a utility operating in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. At Entergy he held various leadership roles in operations, compliance, information technology and substation maintenance, and led teams of engineers and field crews in system restoration after major storms, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and the 2012 Arkansas ice storm. Gupta previously served as the chair of North American Electric Reliability Corporation event analysis subcommittee, which focuses on analyzing events on bulk electric systems and publishing lessons learned.

Silpan Patel, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a 2005 graduate of Kansas State University, dual-majoring in computer engineering and mathematics. Patel has a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and completed his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. He is the president of Ultra Labs at Ultra Electronics Group. Patel leads advanced prototype development across the group, including applied artificial intelligence research for wireless mesh networks, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mission planning. Patel has led advanced research and development efforts across government and industry in multiple technology disciplines that have been applied to missions from seabed to space. Before establishing Ultra Labs, he led multidisciplinary research and development programs at Sandia National Laboratories and MITRE Corporation.

Julie Vick, Chanhassen, Minnesota, is a 2002 graduate of Kansas State University in industrial engineering. She has an MBA from Baker University. Vick is the senior director of Procter & Gamble product supply — transportation and warehousing cost program. In this role, she has the responsibility for the current and future structural savings programs inclusive of the transportation and warehousing network for Procter & Gamble. She joined Procter & Gamble in 2002 as a process engineer and material supply manager and has had the opportunity to work end-to-end with the company's large and complex supply chain. Vick was part of the inaugural Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Professional Academy at K-State and has been an active member ever since, mentoring several students each year and coaching in the Xclerator program. She completed a six-year term with the industrial engineering advisory board before her work with the academy. Vick and her husband, Andy, have three children, Alexis, Aubrey and Tyler.

Ben Tryon, Conroe, Texas, is a 2008 graduate of Kansas State University in chemical engineering. He began his career at ConocoPhillips and has held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility as he has continued his career with Anadarko and Occidental. His roles have encompassed operational, technical, business management and leadership responsibilities, including as an asset development manager where he was charged with leading projects totaling more than $2 billion. He is currently an engineering and planning manager for Occidental Petroleum's exploration business, where he leads a team responsible for managing and optimizing its Gulf of Mexico investment portfolio. Tryon is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, a founding member of the Houston Wabash CannonBall planning committee and serves on the K-State chemical engineering advisory council.


Matt O'Keefe


Professional Progress Award

News tip

Benton, Manhattan, Olathe, Prairie Village and Wichita, Kansas; Livermore, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Novi, Michigan; Chanhassen, Minnesota; and Conroe, Texas.

Written by

Grant Guggisberg