(January 15, 2021) – It is easy to see that Ole Miss alum Andrew Huff loves his home state of Mississippi.
“We’ve got a quality of people that are kind, generous, and hospitable,” said Huff. “We’re willing to take steps forward, we’re willing to change, and that’s something I didn’t want to leave for bigger, high-paying jobs. I wanted to come back and try and do what I could, whatever small part that may be, to try to continue a certain quality of life.”
Huff graduated from Ole Miss in 2017 and is a product of the school’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CME). Ryan Miller, who is the CME Associate Director of External Operations, was inspired by Huff’s desire to stay in Mississippi.
“I think any time a student, Mississippian or non-resident, decides to make Mississippi their home after graduating from our program, it’s exciting,” said Miller. “I get to see incredible students like Andrew every day and marvel at the potential they possess to improve this world through their service and careers. When I see that potential being invested to build community, grow the economy, and positively impact the state of Mississippi, it’s hard not to smile.”
Huff is a Puckett native. Like many who pursue a career in engineering, he always had a curiosity for how things worked.
“Anywhere from mechanic work to breaking down cars, tinkering with everything, taking it apart, putting it back together to see how it works,” Huff said. “And then your mind just keeps running and thinking about what went into it. I think it was just that childhood experience that ultimately drove me to engineering and manufacturing.”
Huff originally wanted to go to Mississippi State, but Ole Miss offered him a scholarship he could not refuse. However, once he got to college, he was not quite sure what he wanted his focus to be.
“I knew I wanted to be in Mississippi. I’ve always had a passion for making the state better,” he said. “That was kinda the goal I came in with. Just something that’s essential to the state, I was open to.”
That is where the guidance of Miller and Scott Kilpatrick, who is the CME Interim Executive Director, proved beneficial.
“Andrew came to our program not sure of his career path or career trajectory. This isn’t uncommon when you consider that many 45-year-olds, let alone 18-year-olds, know what they want to do as a career,” Miller said. “Despite his uncertainty regarding whether he wanted to be a traditional, professional engineer, or a business professional, one thing was made very clear. Whatever he chose to pursue as his vocation, he wanted to make sure the lives of other people were improved by his job.
“He possessed, and still has, a desire to improve his home state, help others, and grow in his abilities. This has certainly been my impression of Andrew and [I] am grateful he was a part of our program. His service-minded attitude was a blessing to us and an inspiration to other students.”
Those are the kinds of words every student wants to hear from their former instructors, and Huff was able to use their guidance to find a career focus. Today, he is a system engineer for Southern Pine Electric, which is an electric co-op that provides service to 11 counties in Mississippi.
“The electric side was a bit of a curveball. I got out of college and this was an opportunity I didn’t see happening at all,” Huff said. “I’m responsible for all the maintenance, construction, voltage, currents, anything to do with the planning of it. Just making sure we’re getting reliable service to our members.”
Huff said he is also thankful for the members of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the scholarship money he received when he was in school.
“I think that’s one of the things kids in this state don’t have, is the opportunity to pursue higher education opportunities for what they want because they’re looking at the massive amount of debt they’re going to have,” he said. “If I wasn’t able to receive a scholarship I wasn’t going to go. In terms of that scholarship, it’s the reason I got through college.”