Finding Perfect Fits

Posted: September 27, 2019

2019 Dan L. Heinlen Ohio State Alumni Award Recipient

Lori Herman

Lori Herman ’00 is one of some 430 Ohio State alumni working at Ford Motor Co. She can recite that number off the top of her head because that’s the way her mind works — and because she has made it her mission to welcome recruits who share her alma mater.

Establishing and nurturing ties between Ford and Ohio State is in her job description as well. That means cultivating relationships among alumni, most of whom are based at the company’s headquarters campus in Dearborn, Michigan. She joined Ford immediately after graduation and excelled in both manufacturing and design engineering positions, while also earning two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

Since 2014, Herman has managed the Ford-Ohio State Alliance, a role she describes as “professional matchmaker.”

“If a researcher at Ford has a need, a large part of my job is identifying if there’s a counterpart at Ohio State who can help,” she says. “And I promote what Ohio State is offering that Ford may be interested in. I invite faculty members to give seminars at Ford to spark interest in working with them.”

“Lori is one of the most dedicated ambassadors for Ohio State I have ever met.” —David Emerling, industry collaborations director, The Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research

To date, Herman has overseen a portfolio of 75 funded alliance projects involving 56 faculty members or full-time researchers at the university.

“The main reason we collaborate with Ohio State is for the research,” she says. “A nice side benefit is that often we end up hiring students who worked on our projects. It’s a huge win-win.”

As a high school student in tiny Napoleon, Ohio, Herman didn’t have much of a handle on what engineers do. She was good at math, and so she enrolled in engineering at Ohio State but was undecided about a specialty.

One day in an introductory engineering class, she saw a demonstration on process optimization, that is, ways to improve efficiency. “I was fascinated,” Herman says. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! This is how my brain naturally works. This is my major.’”

Today, Herman keeps an eye out for potential interns and recruits who share that mindset and enthusiasm.

“If you were a success at Ohio State, you have the opportunity to be a success at Ford,” she says. “You have to be self-motivated at Ohio State, and Ford is very much the same way. I tell our interns and new hires that if you want to learn things, people here are more than receptive.”

And once they’re on board, Herman makes it a point to welcome them into Ford’s network of Buckeyes through happy hours, game-watch parties and activities sponsored by the local alumni club. It’s a good way to balance work and life, she says.

“I really like my job, but the automotive industry is very demanding,” she adds. “I tell students, ‘If you want an exciting career, automotive is it.’”

Written by Lynne M. Bonenberger