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Colorado School of Mines & Arapahoe Community College BattChallenge team’s breaking barriers one career at a time

By Nalu Farrell

At a mid-February event hosted by Arapahoe Community College to spotlight the achievements of women in the automotive sector, an array of panelists shared their personal career journeys. These stories shed light on the challenges women have overcome to carve out their place in male-dominated fields like the automotive industry.

Pictured, from left, are Jenna Rowan, Keli Van Cleave, Odette Brito, Phet Werner, Christian Rutledge, Polina Ringler, Soph Ives and C.C. Huag.

ACC is Colorado School of Mines’ vocational partner in the Battery Workforce Challenge. This event served as a valuable platform for both schools to demonstrate their commitment to supporting women in the automotive field.

By participating actively and contributing their insights, the Mines & ACC BattChallenge team members and their advisors showcased their dedication to fostering inclusivity and empowerment within the industry. Among the panelists was Polina Ringler, a faculty advisor for the Mines & ACC BattChallenge team and a teaching assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines’ Department of Mechanical Engineering, who brought her wealth of experience in automotive engineering and teaching to the discussion.

Mines faculty, however, weren’t the only panelists in attendance. Many women detailed their experiences, such as Soph Ives and CC Haug, who are the shop manager and co-owner and owner for Good Judy Garage in Denver, Colo., respectively. They showcased the value of hands-on engagement over conventional routes.

Keli Van Cleave described her shift from a background in criminal justice to overseeing Fixed Operations at Nissan helping display a wide range of opportunities the field holds.

Soph Ives, shop manager and co-owner of Good Judy Garage, speaks about her work in the automotive industry with the Colorado School of Mines & Arapahoe Community College BattChallenge team.

Meanwhile, Odette Brito’s transition from a general maintenance role at Grease Monkey to a technician position at BMW highlighted that following one’s passion can lead to unforeseen career opportunities.

After the panel, the showcased women were able to break off into smaller groups with the attending young women and answer their questions directly. Among them was Haley Otting, the thermal systems lead for the Mines & ACC BattChallenge team.

“The event revealed to me the incredible talent and perseverance of the women driving change and innovation within the automotive industry,“ Otting said. “The panelists gave extremely valuable advice to the young audience and bolstered my confidence towards adversity and challenge.”

Polina Ringler, faculty advisor for the Mines & ACC BattChallenge team and teaching assistant professor for Colorado School of Mines’ Department of Mechanical Engineering, shares her automotive industry experiences with the group.

These stories underscore the diverse pathways to success in the automotive industry, showing that opportunities are available to everyone regardless of gender. The experiences shared not only inspire aspiring professionals but also reflect the evolving landscape of the automotive sector, emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Through their tales of resilience and adaptability, these pioneering women are not just paving the way for future generations; they’re also reshaping the industry.

Learn more about the Automotive Technology Program at ACC and keep up with their exciting events, including the Women in Industry Night event, by visiting their website.

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