A young woman with a vision

Sep 16, 2005

Ramona Wildgoose will return to the Bahamas hoping to stake her claim to a business empire.

Where are the Donald Trumps of the Bahamas? Ramona Wildgoose wants to know. Where are the Oprahs?

With five years of study behind her, she has shifted her gaze to laying the blocks of her future. There is a light manufacturing plant out there with her name on it and a business empire to stake her claim on.

"Someday that's where I would like to be," she says. "I want to be able to build up something for future youth to have. I think we have a lot of potential; it takes young people to have a vision."

Her dreams may not be so long a ways off. Wildgoose has already waded into the business world through the work experience co-op opportunity that her university gave her. And if her co-op employer uses a plan that she developed for her undergraduate thesis on how it could manufacture a particular product more cheaply, it could save over a million dollars a year.

Wildgoose, 21, is just months away from framing her dual degrees in Chemistry and Industrial Engineering. Her time at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, has been tiered with over three years of work experience.

The student's plan to save Dow Automotive, her American co-op employer during her studies at the university, a million dollars annually was just one of three theses she had to produce before graduating. In addition to a thesis summing up the culmination of her work experience, she had to complete what the university calls capstone projects for each of her majors.

In chemistry, Wildgoose researched cancer-curing agents, a project she had dreamed of making a life's career of in high school. In Industrial Engineering, a group project suggested a process by which the host company could increase its output by 35 percent. "You come out of thesis project... able to say well I did this for my company while I worked there," she affirms. She also graduates from the university a highly marketable commodity. "I can work as a chemical engineer or as an industrial engineer."

The Freeport Anglican High School graduate returned to Kettering a first year undergraduate in 2000, already familiar with the institution. Wildgoose had spent the previous summer mired in chemistry and calculus books at a summer programme on the campus.

Scooped up for the AIM (Academically Interested Minorities) programme by recruiter Dr. Milton Robinson in conjunction with the local Rotary Clubs, she made up a group of about 40 students trading in the usual summer jobs and activities for a shot at excelling in the sciences.

When Wildgoose snagged second place in the group with her outstanding academic performance as well as first in chemistry, the university offered to pay half of her tuition if she returned. "After that it was just like Kettering is where I'm going," she grins.

GMI Engineering and Management Institute formerly changed its name to Kettering University after inventor Charles F. Kettering in 1998. The institution offers its students a programme whereby they alternate work with academic studies throughout the year. Maintaining a close relationship with General Motors Company, which employs a lot of its graduates, the school also has ties with other corporate employers that provide jobs for its students. Companies like BORCO and Grand Bahama Power Company employ some of the university's students locally.

The work experience she gained while at Kettering is probably what she values most. She was able to earn a decent salary and save while studying. The average student is usually short of money, she figures.

Due to the demise of Uniroyal, her first co-op employer, after her first term, she closed out her studies at Dow Automotive. But she definitely sees sure benefits for local employers with Kettering's co-op programme.

"It's a good bargain for employers looking for good labour with some kind of educational experience," she assesses. "If corporations (in The Bahamas) get a hold of it, it will be a good thing too because... they would be getting good Bahamian students with expertise." And as for students who may feel limited in job options at home in related fields, she says, "this programme can show that, 'hey you have something to come back to.'"

As one of a handful of Bahamian students at Kettering, Wildgoose was the first Bahamian woman to attend. At a school and in a field where women typically number significantly less than men, work experience has already braced her for this reality. She remains undaunted.

Returning home to help build the country was an unquestionable certainty. "I always had the desire to come back home and build up my country." Now that she has returned, she's ready to work.

"I've been straight through school for 16 years now," she smiles. "I'm happy to be out of school. I really can't wait to start working." With her last thesis completed and sent in to her professor, she is just awaiting this December's commencement and a world of opportunities.



This story is from the Sept. 12, 2005, edition of The Freeport News, the Grand Bahama's First Newspaper. It was written by Thea Rutherford, a staff reporter at The Nassau Guardian.