UPUA president uses engineering skills to be a better leader

Former UPUA President Katie Jordan, right, swears in Cody Heaton and Laura McKinney as president and vice president, respectively. Credit: Onward StateAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering is proud to call senior Cody Heaton, president of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), one of its own. 

Originally from Morristown, New Jersey, Heaton started out exploring the different fields of engineering at Penn State, ranging from biomedical, mechanical and aerospace, before he realized his true passion for industrial engineering (IE). He says he came to this decision because he saw that the curriculum gives students an expansive background of learning. 

“You get a little bit of finance and economics, a little bit of manufacturing, optimization and you also get to work on your soft skills,” he said. 

Heaton believes his major is one of the best at providing a well-rounded education for engineers at Penn State. “IE allows you to do it all,” he said, which translates seamlessly into the workplace. 

One of Heaton’s favorite classes he has taken at Penn State is IE 330, an engineering analytics course taught by Harold and Inge Marcus Career Associate Professor Hui Yang.

“Dr. Yang is fun and really engaging with his students. I was able to use a lot of what I learned in his class during my summer internship,” he said.

Over the summer, Heaton worked for PS&S, an engineering consulting company in Warren, New Jersey, that specializes in architectural, mechanical and environmental engineering issues. His specific role was in project control, which involved accounting and programming, where he worked with project managers to solve multiple database issues. 

One of the ways Heaton was able to utilize the skills he learned in Yang’s class was by using the coding language R for text mining and data organization. He said that without the knowledge of the coding language, the project may have taken him the whole summer to complete. 

One of the unique perks of being an IE major is that you have the opportunity to learn skills that then translate into success in the workplace, Heaton said. He always looked forward to Yang’s class because he knew it wouldn’t be your typical “cut and dry” type of class.

Heaton has been involved in almost every aspect of student life at Penn State. He has participated in club sports, he became a tour guide and he even worked as a resident assistant last year. He talked about how valuable these experiences were and how they helped him grow his network while making great memories along the way. 

“My major has also given me a lot of leverageable skills that I’ve been able to use in engineering outside the classroom,” he said. 

Prior to deciding on IE, Heaton was already active in student government. He got involved freshman year because he took an interest in making a change on campus. 

“I wanted to make sure that all the students’ voices were heard and I wanted to work with administrators to make change,” he said. “I think that this is also what’s at the root of IE. We want to make a difference and make changes in a mathematical way.” 

Heaton discussed how he has combined the principles and skills he has learned as an engineer to become a better leader. While many students are drawn to leadership positions because of their interest in politics, Heaton said he does it because he cares about people and believes in the power of civil engagement and change making.

When asked how he balances his demanding major with his UPUA responsibilities, he jokingly replied, “I have it down to a science at this point, or at least I try to.” 

Time management, he said, is the key to keeping it all going. 

Some of the major factors in Heaton’s busy schedule include balance and delegation. Within UPUA, he works with a team of skillful and motivated students that help each other by spreading the work and responsibilities. He has mastered the art of delegation, which is one skill that many industry professionals will tell you is essential to becoming an effective leader. 

“I can’t do everything and I don’t try to do everything,” he said. “When you have people help you, it works because they’re getting a good experience and learning something, too. At the end you pull together and help each other grow.” 

Heaton uses these skills both in and outside the classroom to drive change and spread knowledge and positivity to his fellow Penn Staters. One of his favorite things about being UPUA president is getting to sit on the Board of Trustees. 

“There are a lot of interesting people to meet and big decisions I get to be a part of,” he said. 

Heaton’s biggest piece of advice for underclassmen is to maintain balance. He says students should strive to be involved both in academics and in other activities; however, he stressed the importance of not letting your extracurriculars take precedence over your grades and education. 

“You have to take care of yourself,” he said. “Find time to work out or do something else for yourself and to relax, but get involved and keep your academics on track.” 

Despite being a busy senior, he is trying to make the best of his last year at Penn State. Heaton admitted that he generally doesn’t get a lot of free time, but when he does he likes to socialize with friends and stay physically active by going to one of the various campus gyms to lift free weights. 

One of Heaton’s favorite memories at Penn State was the summer when he worked as a tour guide for Tour the Glory. He said he became great friends with his fellow tour guides and that they spent a lot of time hanging out, studying together and enjoying the summer in Happy Valley.

His long-term goals are to one day hold a leadership position in engineering.

“I think a lot of leadership is about connecting with people and having empathy,” he said. “I’m a big fan of servant leadership, which is when your sole purpose in your position is to help other people be their best and empower them to meet their goals.” 

Heaton hopes that wherever he ends up in life he will be able to help others through public service. It’s easy to see why Penn State students have chosen him to be their leader and why the industrial engineering sector will welcome him with open arms after he graduates in May.

Heaton’s biggest piece of advice for underclassmen is to maintain balance between academics and experiences out of the classroom. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated September 12, 2018