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Sarah Walter, Iowa State student, (515) 294-8807,

Dan Kuester, News Service, (515) 294-0704,

ISU student named Rolls Royce North American Student of Year

AMES, Iowa - "Do you get to drive a company car?"

That's the question Sarah Walter says she gets most often when people find out she is an intern, and a future employee, of Rolls Royce.

Walter says she laughs sometimes when she hears the question, because the famous company doesn't make cars anymore. It sold the brand name to BMW several years ago.

What Walter does for Rolls Royce is no laughing matter. As an intern she has been assigned to some very important positions for the world-famous company that is now a leader in power systems -- mostly engines -- for use on land, in the air, and at sea.

Walter is so trusted and valuable that she was recently named Rolls Royce North American Student of the Year, which is given to the outstanding student from the United States and Canada. The award is presented to students who demonstrate outstanding performance in academics, industry programs and extracurricular activities.

Walter has also already accepted a full-time position with the company to work in its Indianapolis plant after graduation.

"I've always wanted to work in the business," said Walter, whose father worked as a mechanic when she was a little girl.

"I've been around engines all my life, so I always wanted to work with them," she said.

"When I was young, I would hang around my dad's shop," she said. "I couldn't actually be in the shop and help him change the oil and work on cars, because of the insurance restrictions, but I still liked being around it. And when people would call in with car trouble, I would answer questions and try to get them going again if they flooded their engine or had some other small problem."

It seems like a big jump from helping at dad's shop to working on million-dollar aircraft engines, but Walter downplays the difference.

"It's the same concepts. Only the engines are bigger," she said. Walter grew up in West Chicago, Ill., and is a senior in mechanical engineering.

Two other ISU students are also finishing cooperative education opportunities with the engine giant -- Jonathan Spellman, a senior aerospace engineering and business major from Omaha, Neb., and Katie Henning, a senior aerospace engineering major from Webster City.

Walter got the internship at Rolls Royce to work on aircraft engines even though she really wanted to work with cars, like her dad did.

"There weren't any automotive companies at the career fair," she said. "So I did some research and talked to the big companies that interested me."

When she spoke with someone from Rolls Royce, she felt she had done well.

"I think I impressed them, for a freshman," Walter said. But when they didn't contact her for several months, she thought she didn't get the job.

Eventually, they did call.

And Walter went.

She spent the fall semester of 2003, the summer of 2004 and the fall of 2005 working for Rolls Royce at their Indianapolis plant. She also spent an "amazing" summer of 2006 working for the Rolls Royce headquarters in Derby, England.

As the first child in her family to graduate with a four-year degree, she has a head start in making the most of her education.

"I've had a good run," she said.


Quick look

ISU Senior spent two semesters and one summer working for Rolls Royce at their Indianapolis plant and another summer working at the Rolls Royce headquarters in Derby, England.