Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Slip sliding

Jenny Hinton

Welcome Week leader

Jenny Hinton, Welcome Week leader

Honors Program poster

Jenny Hinton in December 2017 after her presentation on solar energy in the Honors Showcase in the Art Gallery. She also won a ceramics award at SMC

Twistees, Resting Dancer

Roadrunner at rest: Jenny enjoyed a Twistees treat downtown, striking a Resting Dancer pose by Dowagiac City Hall

Volleyball 2

Jenny excelled at volleyball. Softball, too.

Beach volleyball

Now that she lives in California, Jenny can play beach volleyball

Boeing Engineer Shoots for the Stars with Satellites

Published on May 16, 2024 - 10 a.m.

Jenny Hinton came to Southwestern Michigan College from Monticello, Ill., for three semesters, graduating early in December 2018 with a straight-A average.

In January 2019, she transferred to Utah State University for her baccalaureate degree in electrical engineering.

Besides math and science ability which propelled her into SMC’s Honors Program and an officer’s position in Sigma Psi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college international honor society, the softball and volleyball standout learned rock-climbing at SMC.

Today, she lives in California and works for the Electronic Products division of Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS).

“As far as I know, El Segundo is the main location for space systems. My team does a lot of new design, and we also help out other Boeing teams with electrical design and analysis,” Hinton said.

‘We work mainly on satellites destined for space’

“Since we work mainly on satellites that are destined for space’s harsh environment where they cannot easily be repaired, one of our main roles is to perform worst-case circuit analysis. This requires checking that each part of a circuit will meet all program requirements under the worst conditions.

“I’m fortunate to also live in El Segundo, so I don’t have to deal with the infamous L.A. traffic.”

“I wouldn’t say aerospace was my goal,” Hinton said, “but it really worked out for me to get into it. Going into SMC, I was clueless about what I wanted to do for a career.

“I still really credit (Vice President for the Student Experience Dr.) Katie Hannah and (Dean of Arts and Sciences) Dr. (Keith) Howell for encouraging me to get into electrical engineering,” Hinton said. “Katie helped me see that engineering was a real possibility. Deciding to be an engineer was incredibly overwhelming, especially because of how many different engineering fields there are.”

Hannah had just been promoted to her new position when The Southwester spoke to Hinton.

“That’s awesome, but I can’t say I’m surprised at all. Katie is the perfect person for a position like that. She is so thoughtful and imaginative. She really knew how to make me feel seen and important during my time there,” the former Welcome Week leader said.

“Dr. Howell’s passion and ability to clearly explain complicated math subjects, like differential equations, made me enjoy his classes and helped me explore which engineering fields use math the most, which is how I found electrical. After getting further into my program at Utah State, I found that thinking through circuits came naturally, so I never thought of doing anything else. 

“My student jobs at USU really solidified that I enjoy the field,” she said. “Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) was where most engineering students wanted to work because it is a relatively large engineering company.


Taking a risk out West

“My boss at the time told me he thought I was an interesting applicant because I came from the Midwest and he liked that I was taking a risk out West. I really liked that job, it felt like important work, but doing mission operations required a lot more coding than I prefer. I ended up taking a power electronics course with Dr. Regan Zane, who happens to be the director of the Center for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification (ASPIRE), which includes the USU Power Electronics Lab.

“Like Dr. Howell, he was passionate about the subject, which  made the class really enjoyable. He offered me a job and, after a summer of mission operations, I decided I should explore power electronics. This is when I fell in love with power electronics! I would have stayed at that job forever, but I had to graduate. I really love my job now because my team does work with power electronics for space systems, so it's the perfect combination.”

Hinton said the main reason she chose Utah State “was because of their scholarships paired with knowing they had a solid electrical engineering program. I was able to graduate debt-free, which was always a huge motivator for me!

“I actually had no idea just how beautiful Utah was before moving. I didn’t have any goals of going West, but I knew I was ready to leave the Midwest, and things really fell into place again to come out to California. 

“My boyfriend since high school was getting his master’s degree at the University of Southern California, so I guess you could say I followed him. It was a huge adjustment and I actually hated it in California for the first year.


‘I started to love living here’

“After making friends, getting into beach volleyball and starting my job at Boeing, I started to love living out here. It's wildly different from the Midwest. There are endless things to do and I live in a safe beach city with very consistent weather.

“However, everything is considerably more expensive and trying to drive out of the area is very difficult. I have really enjoyed being here for the time being, but I don’t see this being my forever home — mainly because it would take years to be able to afford a home here!”

Hinton’s favorite SMC memories revolve around her friends.

“Meeting people and making connections in the Midwest definitely always felt a lot more natural and genuine,” she said. “The intramural sports were very fun — the best memory being my three-person team winning volleyball one season! I’m so glad SMC is back in intercollegiate sports! I’m only a little jealous it happened after I left! Having the rock wall there was so great. I was lucky enough my roommate loved it as much as me so we could go every day. Sadly, I have not climbed much since leaving Utah, but I do miss it and hope to do it more again one day.”

“I couldn’t be happier with my choice to start at SMC,” Hinton said. “I really needed the space away from my hometown to find who I am on my own. SMC made that a reality by being an affordable, great education.

“Reflecting on my past few years, if there is one thing I’ve learned it's being able to adapt to the situation you're given and not being afraid to accept new opportunities. It is very scary moving somewhere new and branching out, but after doing it a few times and looking back now, I realize how grateful I am that I took those chances.”