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When Amy Bouchard CE '00 came to Curry College to study Business Management she thought it might be the catalyst to a new and different career. Instead, something unexpected happened. Bouchard, a Technical Specialist III at the Entergy operated Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., learned new skills and gained confidence to take her nuclear career to a new level. That includes Bouchard's rise as a major leader and advocate for other women in the nuclear industry.
In 1996, when Bouchard made the decision to attend Curry, she had already been working at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant since 1983. To an outsider, a Business Management degree may not have seemed like an obvious choice, but for Bouchard it just made sense.
"I like to learn; I have a very inquisitive mind. I went with Business Management because I wasn't sure if I was going to stay at the nuclear plant. I was impressed with the programs Curry offered, and I thought that with what they could teach me, I could take it and use it wherever I ended up," Bouchard says.
As it turns out, Bouchard did stick with that nuclear career, but she left Curry with the desire-and confidence-to take on a larger leadership role at the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant and within Entergy, the plant's owner, and a Fortune 500 company that owns 41 plants nationwide.
"In Continuing Education you have a diverse group of students. When you have class discussions you have a breadth of experience from all different levels which you think about and you learn from," Bouchard explains. "Leadership was a core aspect of many classes and I used that to my advantage after I graduated.
During her three decades in the nuclear fi eld, Bouchard has seen many changes in the roles women have played.
Bouchard herself has worked in Engineering since 1987. As a Technical Specialist III, her responsibilities include performing Department Performance Improvement Coordinator Functions (DPIC) for the plant's Engineering personnel.
It's positions like this that Bouchard wants to make other women aware of-helping to change the perception of what a nuclear career can be.
"When I started at the plant in 1983 there were not a lot of women, and the women that were there were mostly in the administrative support area. Currently, there are more and more young women entering the industry in technical roles such as operations, or with degrees in disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, and reactor engineering. It's encouraging to see the marked shift in what was historically a male dominated industry."
Bouchard is now working to continue that trend by taking an active role in U.S. Women in Nuclear (US WIN). Founded in 1999, US WIN is an organization representing more than 5,000 women in 50 chapters across the country. Bouchard has been active in US WIN since 2000, and is now in her second term as president of the Entergy chapter representing Entergy employees up and down the eastern seaboard and throughout the South. Bouchard is also in her first term as Region 1 Lead for US WIN, which encompasses all chapters from Washington, D.C. north through Maine. The organization is not limited to Women-US WIN offers networking opportunities for men as well.
"This is an organization that really gets it," Bouchard says, explaining why she decided to take on a leadership role. "The basic premise behind US WIN is we mentor younger people coming in and we offer professional development opportunities, whether it is in seminars or webinars. And, most importantly we have public outreach."
That public outreach takes on many forms. For example, members of US WIN work in their communities to educate the public about nuclear plants, often working to alleviate concerns they may have about the safety of those plants.
That is a mission Bouchard takes seriously, especially in her role as a Technical Specialist. As she points out, the plant is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year by a staff of dedicated nuclear professionals. In fact, on the day we met, we conducted our interview in a massive warehouse that serves as a training facility for safety and emergency procedures.
"Safety is a huge thing at Pilgrim. After reviewing data, I sit with the engineering managers once a month and we decide where we need to focus our efforts to ensure safety among Engineering personnel."
In addition to educating the public, Bouchard and members of US WIN are focused on educating the nuclear workers of the next generation-especially women. Bouchard and her coworkers frequently visit school career days, explaining the myriad of opportunities available in the field.
Bouchard and the management at Pilgrim have taken it a step further by partnering with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts to develop activities focused on the STEM fields-science, technology, engineering, and math. The goal, Bouchard says, is to try and empower young women to consider non-traditional roles and careers.
"I think even to this day there are woman and girls that have the thought, 'math is hard I don't want to do that,' but you have to give it a chance and that's why we go into the high schools and show them the diverse job options there are to consider."
To offer a further incentive, the Pilgrim WIN group grants two scholarships each year to one deserving high school senior from Plymouth North and one from Plymouth South who has shown exceptional talent and interest in STEM and who plans to attend a college entering one of those areas of study.
It's the kind of direction and inspiration that Bouchard wishes she had at a younger age.
"The reality is that when I was in high school I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to do. Life just evolves."
Bouchard is proof of that evolution. When she first went to college, she says it just didn't "work for her." But, her experience was the exact opposite at Curry. Bouchard was the valedictorian of her graduating CE class-a shock to her and a testament to the hard work she put into her education, attending evening and weekend classes at Curry's Plymouth campus.
"I left Curry College knowing that there are no limits and I could go as far as I wanted to go. I could just be happy with the status quo or I could keep challenging myself and see where it led me. And the journey is certainly not over yet."