Magna Underscores Its Commitment to Kettering Co-op Program and Students

Having been a Co-op employer since 2008, leading mobility technology company Magna knows the value of a Kettering student. This year, Magna expanded its partnership with a $100,000 grant to the University.

“When considering our role as a mobility technology company deeply rooted as one of the world's leading automotive suppliers, a key differentiator for us is our unwavering commitment to hiring employees who possess an expansive mindset, refuse to settle for mediocrity and embody our core values every day,” said Jennifer Ecclestone, Director of Talent Attractions and Employer Brand at Magna. “There is a remarkable alignment between Magna's success and our ability to advance our business through the innovative individuals we attract, especially in the realm of developing new technological solutions. This can only be achieved if they have a solid educational foundation provided by esteemed institutions like Kettering University.”   

Enza Sleva, Director of Co-op Operations, appreciates that Magna sees the value in Kettering.

“Investing and supporting Kettering is critical to providing the best academic and modern resources to our students so we can develop great talent for our corporate partners such as Magna,” she said. “Partnerships like this keep our programs—and our students—on the cutting edge and help us better prepare the workforce of tomorrow.”

Magna employs 35 to 50 Co-op students each term, making it the third-largest Co-op employer at Kettering.

“As our longtime Co-op partner, Magna recognizes higher education is most effective when it is a collaborative enterprise between institutions and industry,” said Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan. “This extraordinary gift demonstrates Magna’s commitment to partnering with Kettering in opening doors for promising high school STEM students, supporting critical robotics programs for young people, and creating opportunities for our students to benefit from hands-on learning, competition and mentorship.”

This year’s grant was the latest investment from Magna, which previously pledged $100,000 annually starting in 2017 as part of a broader agreement. Some of that money funded the Magna Knowledge Bar on the first floor of the Learning Commons.

This contribution was divided equally among the following STEM programs:

  • Academically Interested Minds (AIM)
  • Robotics
  • Competition teams
  • Partners in Learning

Started in 1984, AIM is a free, five-week, residential precollege summer program for multicultural students in 11th grade who have a strong interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students enroll in college-level courses to develop their functional, quantitative and qualitative skills. They also have the opportunity for on-site programs with Co-op partners like Magna. 

The robotics portion of the grant will support scholarships for students to attend other precollege camps, including Student Leadership Camp; JAVA and Python Programming; Robot Build and Drive; and Aerial Drone. It also will fund hands-on activities with University professors and Co-op Panels in which Kettering students share their Co-op experiences to underscore the benefits of pursuing a STEM degree.

The University has competitive teams for the following:

  • Esports
  • Intelligent Ground Vehicle
  • EV Kartz
  • SAE AutoDrive
  • Baja SAE
  • Formula SAE
  • SAE Aero
  • Shell Eco Marathon
  • SAE Clean Snowmobile
  • Combat robotics

The Magna grant will establish a new Hardware in the Loop (HIL) lab to support SAE student projects and work. HIL tests systems, specifically software, on test benches with real hardware components instead of a simulation.

“The new HIL lab from Magna is valuable for our students because it introduces the issues experienced with real hardware that may not always be incorporated in simulation,” said Dr. Diane Peters, AutoDrive faculty adviser. “Since it’s a test bench as opposed to the entire system, students can test one element of a system at a time, which is both easier and more helpful in figuring out where problems are.”

In addition, the grant money will partially fund a graduate student to support the AutoDrive team; fund a partial sponsorship of the Baja, Formula, Clean Snowmobile and Aero teams; and fund a sponsorship for other competitive University teams.

While Magna often sponsors the competition as a whole, Ecclestone said the grant allows the company to get involved at a team level too.

Student talking to spokesperson for Magna
Student looking at examples on table during Magna Day

“It's an opportunity for us to provide mentorship to these students and also offer them a glimpse into the reality of the professional world,” she explained. “Engaging in racing teams serves as an excellent analogy for the work undertaken at companies such as Magna or other OEMs. These teams work on vehicles, tackle problem-solving, brainstorm new technologies and discover ways to optimize existing technologies for more efficient products. Whether it's achieving greater speed in racing or accomplishing the team's particular goal, collaboration is at the heart of this process.”

For the past 20 years, Kettering has hosted Partners in Learning sessions and workshops with Magna employees that provide training and collaboration focused on the following: 

  • Hiring and retention
  • Work plan development
  • Effective evaluations
  • Culminating the undergraduate experience
  • Company best practices

These workshops have helped develop and implement a cohesive and best-practice Co-op program between Magna and Kettering University. The latest investment will strengthen these programs.

“Recognizing Kettering's esteemed reputation, our teams are actively seeking partnerships with the University to leverage the invaluable Co-op opportunities,” Ecclestone said. “The proximity of numerous facilities within an hour's radius allows for greater accessibility and exposure for students. However, I strongly desire to witness increased cross-pollination between the teams, enabling the exchange of ideas and fostering collaboration among them.”

This could include a rotation experience for students through various teams and divisions of Magna to give them more exposure to the company and potential opportunities.

To further increase its outreach to students, Magna hosted Magna Day in October. At the event, students could learn more about Magna as a whole and the broad range of its products and capabilities.

“Magna Day serves as a unique platform to provide students with exposure to our organization and offers them an opportunity to gain insight into our products and operations, which they may not encounter in their day-to-day interactions with other industry players,” Ecclestone said.

In the future, Sleva said the University plans to continue to grow and expand Co-op opportunities for students.

“Kettering is proud to be a part of the talent pipeline for Magna,” she said. “We look forward to preparing students to meet the needs of such an important part of our Co-op program.”

That sounds like an excellent plan to Ecclestone.

“I’m continuously impressed by the level of passion and support Kettering provides us as a corporate partner and the willingness to help take on the effort,” she said. “... I really love partnering with such a great university, and I see us continuing to be partners for a long time.”


President McMahan expresses gratitude to our alumni and donors for their ongoing support as we strive to expand the Kettering opportunity to the most talented and promising students.


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