Center Manager Notes — Partner Spotlight: Mel Cossette & Greg Kepner 

Mel Cossette LinkedIn Profile

Location: Washington, United States 

Mel Cossette

Greg Kepner LinkedIn Profile

Location: Iowa, United States   

Greg Kepner

In this month’s “Spotlight,” we shine a light on two extraordinary individuals whose contributions to mentoring at MNT-EC and Mentor-Connect have been transformative. Mel Cossette and Greg Kepner have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also dedicated countless hours to nurturing the next generation of technicians and engineers. Their combined efforts have significantly impacted educational outcomes and industry readiness.

As Center Manager, I have worked with Mel and Greg for over a decade and have come to know them quite well. Mel has mentored me in various ways over the years, and she has helped me grow personally and professionally. The ATE community is close-knit, and they both love to help people make connections, especially those new to the community. Their support for me over the years has been invaluable personally and professionally in helping me grow and mature as a person and as a leader. Their guidance and support have helped to make MNT-EC stronger.

Key Points from the Q&A with Mel Cossette and Greg Kepner

  • Educational Innovations:
    • Developed a co-mentoring model in collaboration with Mentor-Connect.
    • Jointly mentor mentees, enhancing the support system within MNT-EC.
  • Advice to Students and Educators:
    • Stay connected with industry. Engage with associations, organizations, and communities of practice.
  • Favorite Aspects of Their Work:
    • Mentoring teams from the beginning of their ATE journey to successful proposal submissions and beyond. 
    • Meeting potential mentees and fostering new partnerships within the ATE Community.
  • Trends in Nanotechnology and Related Technologies:
    • Growing need for technicians in micro-nanotechnology fields such as semiconductor manufacturing, materials science, photonics, and advanced manufacturing.
  • Advice to Young People Interested in Manufacturing and Nanotechnology:
    • Pursue a career that is interesting, challenging, enduring, and offers high wages.

Mel Cossette

Role: Former Executive Director/Principal Investigator, Online Instructional Resources for Material Science Technology Education
Background and Contributions Our Team – Micro Nano Technology Education Center

Mel Cossette is the former Executive Director/Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education funded Online Instructional Resources for Material Science Technology Education [formerly the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU)] and the Technician Education and Additive Manufacturing & Materials project housed at Edmonds College in Lynnwood, WA. She is also a Co-PI on the NSF ATE funded Micro Nano Technology Education Center. 

Mel serves as an ETAC Commissioner for ABET through SME and a founding member of ABET’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Advisory Council and has 20+ years of experience in manufacturing education focusing on technician education and workforce development. She has developed technician education programs for industry and educational institutions; serves on numerous committees and national boards; worked in various industries; and held administrative and faculty positions within the community and technical college system.

Greg Kepner

Role: Co-Principal Investigator, Micro Nano Technology Education Center

Background and Contributions Our Team – Micro Nano Technology Education Center

Greg Kepner, M.Ed, serves as a Co-Principal Investigator for the NSF-ATE Micro Nano Technology Education Center. With over three decades of experience in education and industry, Greg has a profound understanding of the technical and educational landscapes. He served as the Director/Principal Investigator of the NSF-ATE Midwest Photonics Education Center for five years and as a Principal Investigator for ATE projects. Additionally, he was briefly a Co-PI for the OP-TEC national center.

Greg retired from Indian Hills Community College, where he was the Department Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Department. His prior roles at IHCC included Industrial Technology Coordinator and Robotics/Automation instructor. Greg holds a master’s degree in Higher Education, Community College Leadership from Iowa State University, a BA Degree from Buena Vista University, and an AA and AAS Degree in Electronics Technology from IHCC. His industry experience includes serving as a senior field service engineer in semiconductor manufacturing in Silicon Valley.

Mentoring at MNT-EC & Mentor-Connect

Both Mel and Greg have significantly contributed to mentoring initiatives at MNT-EC and NSF-funded Mentor-Connect. Their collaborative efforts have developed robust mentoring programs that align educational outcomes with industry needs, ensuring students receive the necessary guidance and skills to succeed in today’s job market.

Educational Innovations: Through their mentoring activities, Mel and Greg developed a co-mentoring model in collaboration with Mentor-Connect. While having specific mentees assigned to them through Mentor-Connect, they cultivate mentees through MNT-EC and then mentor these mentees jointly, enhancing the support system within the center.

Outreach and Training Efforts

Greg has been instrumental in leading ATE outreach efforts. As part of the ACOE during 2020-24, he hosted the ATE Community Exhibit Booth at 28 national, regional, or state conferences and gave presentations, hosted round-table discussions, or poster sessions at 17 conferences. Following the ACOE project, Greg and Mel developed the NSF ATE NavigATE project that was recently awarded to continue hosting the ATE Community exhibit, aimed at increasing awareness and visibility of the ATE program, the ATE centers and projects, mentoring initiatives, and educational materials and resources developed through the program. Recent article about Greg’s experiences with outreach: Maximizing Conference Impact with Greg Kepner

DEI Efforts

In addition to her work in mentoring, Mel Cossette has been a driving force in advancing DEI within the field of nanotechnology education. She is a founding member of ABET’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Council. Being an active member with the IDEA Council and other initiatives underscores her commitment to creating inclusive environments where all individuals, regardless of background, can thrive in STEM fields. Recent article about Mel’s experiences with DEI: ABET News Roundup: Voices in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

What They Love About Their Work

Mel and Greg find immense satisfaction in mentoring and witnessing the growth and success of their mentees. They are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experiences, helping students and colleagues navigate their career paths. They are excited to meet new people so they can welcome them to the ATE Community. They love to introduce people to the ATE Community and help develop new partnerships, encourage collaborations, and grow personal networks. 

Connect with Mel and Greg

For those interested in learning more about their work or discussing potential collaborations, Mel and Greg are available via their respective emails. They welcome inquiries from educators, industry professionals, and students eager to explore the dynamic world of micro and nanotechnology.

Want to talk more about Nano? Get in touch with me. Are you in industry and want to get involved, reach out to myself or Mel or Greg at the above email links.



Short Bio: Billie Copley, MNT-EC Center Manager