Member Q&A: Diana VanWinkle

Diana VanWinkle

Name: Diana VanWinkle
Institution:  The University of Toledo College of Engineering
Position:  Manager of Marketing and Communication

What do you do for fun?

Well, I just finished my Master’s in Strategic Communication and Social Media in December, so I’m trying to remember what I used to do for fun! I’m pretty active in my church and community – my husband and I run a 4-day festival in our neighborhood – which is work but also fun. I have a one-year-old golden retriever that I adore, and I ride horses when I have time. I have three grown children – both of my daughters will graduate from college in May, and their older brother and his wife will make me a first-time grandma in May! And I have concert tickets for the Rolling Stones, Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Joan Jett if this stupid COVID would ever go away! I’ll be a rock and roll grandma.

What is your favorite thing about working in engineering communications?

I love hearing and sharing the stories of our amazing students. They inspire me and give me such hope for the future!

Something really cool currently happening in engineering at your school?

Our integrated co-op program makes UToledo stand out from other universities. We are one of just eight engineering colleges to require these paid work experiences for engineering science students. And that’s a huge plus for you ― financially and career-wise.  We have a dedicated Center for Engineering Career Development ― an invaluable resource ― which helps students prepare for and find three semester-long, paid co-ops. Students spend one semester on co-op and the next on campus, starting sophomore year. Co-ops are integrated into their curriculum ― unlike at some other schools. That means that we build them into the plan of study, so they have access to all the classes they need to graduate on time.

This program allows our students to graduate with a full year of paid work experience. It allows our students to find out what you like or don’t like about a job before committing while earning enough money to pay for their next semester’s tuition. Therefore, most of our student’s graduate with a job and little to no student debt.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

I am a department of one! I have a million balls in the air constantly (which is also what I love about my job), and I wish I had more time to spend on planning and strategizing.

Project or achievement in your current position that you are most proud of?

In 2018, I helped create and implement a partnership with AAA to provide an on-going educational forum on the topic of autonomous vehicles with broad appeal — one that would be of interest to the average curious community member as well as those with a greater understanding of AV technology. In addition, both organizations were committed to creating a long-term local transportation strategy employed beyond the Speaker Series. 

The Speaker Series provides an opportunity to engage with transportation stakeholders, elected officials at the local, state and federal level, municipal government agency leaders, professional engineers, engineering students, metropolitan planning organizations, and business and community leaders to talk about next steps to prepare for the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles in the community. 

Through this series, Technology Takes the Wheel®, now trademarked and being implemented nationwide, The University of Toledo College of Engineering has received incredible recognition in our area as a leader on the topic of autonomous vehicles and the engineering changes they will require.

Advice for someone just starting out in higher ed communications and marketing?

I think my best advice would be the importance of building relationships and a network of people across your campus and your city. Partnering with industry, government, community, as well as really getting to know your alumni and student population, is so helpful. Join your Chamber of Commerce, or other networking groups in your area. Offer up your facilities for meetings or events. Share great stories about your students and faculty with local news sources, and really strive to help them meet their tight deadlines. Try to help your school eke out something that makes you different from others, which will be so important in this changing educational environment.