Featured Alumni

Stephanie Triplett

Mindy Rapp

Photo courtesy of W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center" under the picture of the first featured alumna.

Degree/Year:  B.S. Industrial Engineering, ’07
Current Employer: W.G. (Bill) Hefner Medical Center
Title:  Vice President of Operations

Trained in a profession most often connected to manufacturing paradigms and factory design, Stephanie Triplett ’07 broke with tradition to make positive changes within health care. Through Bradley’s industrial engineering program, she has improved patient care in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Triplett began her career as a senior industrial engineer working with dozens of medical centers and outpatient clinics throughout the nation. Taking a nontraditional route to medicine prepared her to analyze complex problems and offer solutions that would positively affect both patients and employees.

“In an industry where engineering is not the primary profession, it has opened doors and opportunities for me to stand out and offer a different, but valued perspective,” she said. “With my background, I knew I could have a bigger impact beyond treating a single patient at a time. I had the potential to avoid significant patient harm for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of patients. That potential made it an easy decision for me to become an administrator rather than a clinician.”

Industry trends proved the decision prescient.

A decade ago, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine recommended increased application of systems and industrial engineering approaches to overhaul American health care. Today, many still believe health care is the industry in need of the most improvement in productivity, efficiency and outcomes per dollar spent. Thomson Reuters estimated that an additional 98,000 patients would survive and 197,000 more would avoid complications if Medicare inpatients received the same level of care as patients in the top 100 hospitals in the U.S.

“When even those at the top have room to improve, what better way is there to have a direct impact on those in your community or potentially around the world,” Triplett said. “We can raise the standard of care across the board.”

Triplett now is Vice President of Operations at one of the fastest growing medical centers within the Department of Veterans Affairs. The W.G. (Bill) Hefner Medical Center is responsible for providing care at four campuses. She likened the operation to a small city.

“It takes a lot of planning to decide what services to provide at each location, which becomes even more complex when having to consider support services needed for them to operate,” she said. “For example, should we locate our laundry service in a centralized location or should each campus have their own? If it’s centralized, what will our transportation costs be? This is where it becomes valuable that Bradley armed me with an array of problem-solving tools and knowledge. It’s made me a better health care professional and better manager.”

Applications of engineering methodologies can improve the patient and employee experience, environment and cross-communication between paper processes and electronic systems. The same methodologies that apply in a manufacturing environment cross over to healthcare, such as human factors, tools for failure analysis, queueing methods, discrete-event simulation, supply chain management, productivity measuring and monitoring, optimization tools for decision making, data mining, predictive modeling and scheduling.

Triplett earned a black belt in Six Sigma quality control training. Triplett earned a black belt in Six Sigma quality control training. Bradley students can now earn a green belt through a January interim course offered by the Foster College of Business in collaboration with Caterpillar.

“Experience in a quality improvement methodology is becoming an expectation rather than an advantage,” she said. “The sooner someone is able to learn an improvement framework like Six Sigma and participate in projects, the more competitive they will be when applying for positions and on a fast track toward being a manager or leader.”

As a leader, Triplett now has the opportunity to appreciate the true impact an industrial engineer can have.

“Working in health care has given me the privilege to contribute toward providing the best and safest care to patients and their families,” she said. “Engineers extend ‘first do no harm’ beyond direct treatment. We can ensure every dollar spent goes as far as possible and that services are timely and customer-centric each and every day. That’s something to be proud of.”

Mindy Rapp

Mindy RappDegree/Year:  B.S. Manufacturing Engineering, ’95
Current Employer: Caterpillar Inc.
Title:  Advanced Planning Manager, Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Department, Caterpillar Inc.

Manufacturing is an exciting and globally competitive field that creates new challenges every day. Manufacturing engineers have the opportunity to design and build the word's products through state-of-the-art processes with superior quality. I have solved business problems every day using manufacturing engineering skills and tools that I developed at Bradley University.

My time at Bradley gave me a solid educational foundation through a wide range of coursework in the engineering, business and the liberal arts and sciences. Bradley's small class size, extensive world-class manufacturing laboratories and close integration with the strong manufacturing presence in the Peoria area further enhanced my classroom education.

Bradley's faculty fully prepared me for the challenges of the manufacturing industry. The faculty was always available with an open-door policy. They take time to know each student personally and give honest feedback to continuously improve the students' technical capabilities as well as their values-based competencies. I still reach out to the Bradley faculty today for guidance and support. The course instruction includes projects with real manufacturing companies that require significant teamwork, integration of business concepts and extensive project management and presentation capabilities. I left Bradley with a strong foundation that allowed me to be successful in industry.

Bradley's core values of excellence, leadership, innovation, globalization, collaborative learning, community, diversity, experiential learning, entrepreneurship and service can be found at the heart of the Bradley faculty, staff and alumni. These core values were instilled to me as a student and are expected in today's workplace. Bradley taught me the value of people and relationships. I learned to have a personal commitment to life-long learning and to continuously improve my skills and capabilities.

My advice to current and future students of industrial and manufacturing engineering programs is to take your time and really get the most out of your collegiate experience. Take the necessary time to develop a strong foundation through additional coursework and industry internships/assignments/projects. This additional development will better prepare you for the workforce. Above all have fun and feel confident that Bradley has prepared you for a lifelong learning journey.

David Ziegler

Degree/Year: BS/MS Manufacturing Engineering, ’76 / ’01
Current Employer: The Boeing Co.
Title: Director, Sales & Marketing

From my first job after graduation, I have always felt that I was one step ahead of my peers thanks to the education I received from Bradley. Throughout my career in both the automotive and aerospace industries, the engineering skills and discipline that I learned during my years at Bradley have provided me with the foundation to be an effective contributor and team leader.

For the last 25 years, I have been primarily involved in selling aircraft to Boeing’s domestic and international customers. The job has entailed a lot of successes and the chance to go around the world on three separate occasions. I never get tired of watching airplanes take off that I helped sell to our customers.

From the very beginning, I have depended on those same methods for complex problem solving that were instilled in me during my Bradley experience. Today, being on an Academic Advisory Council at Bradley, I get to see how the University continues to maintain high standards of excellence that prepare students for careers in the engineering industry.

My best advice for a new Bradley graduate is to remain flexible; there will be disappointments along the way. Always remember that those early views of your career may only be a beginning. “Re-making” yourself is sometimes necessary to reach the next rung of your personal and professional ladder of success.

John Garrels

Degree/Year: B.S. in industrial engineering, ‘94
Current Employer: Accenture
Title: Managing director

I liked the balance between business acumen and technical skills offered by the Industrial Engineering program at Bradley. The range of uses for an industrial engineering degree appealed to me as I entered college.

With that background, I began my career with Accenture (formerly known as Andersen Consulting) in 1994.  I gained a wide range of experiences early on in my consulting career, with projects focused on process redesign to technology systems development projects.  All my projects were with North America retailers across the spectrum of retail outlets.

Over time, I developed my expertise and focus around merchandise planning, assortment and store space planning, customer analytics, and store process improvement and associate productivity. As Accenture’s retail lead for our Midwest territory, I serve on a core leadership team and work with several key clients.

Bradley provided me with a well-rounded technical background coupled with adequate preparation in the softer skills required to enter the professional world.  Classes, including the senior design project, helped me apply what I learned to real-world problems.  Bradley provided a personalized learning experience where professors were very accessible. 

Bradley is also fortunate to have an active alumni and community network.  Many of these people and their companies sponsor senior designs projects to enhance the educational experience.  Lastly, Bradley has a developed career center program focused on supporting students in the search for their first job.