After living in Colorado, working on two cruise ships that sailed from Hawaii, and owning her own Philadelphia-based business, it was the birth of her daughter that brought Ansun “Vernell” Daniels on her journey to Penn State Lehigh Valley. She majored in project and supply chain management and graduated in May 2019.
Daniels grew up in Schuylkill County graduating from Schuylkill Haven High School. Her love for the outdoors and desire to travel led her to jobs at Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks and then to Utah where she earned a massage therapy certificate. Her work as a massage therapist took her to Colorado and then to Hawaii where she worked for Steiner Leisure Limited on two Norwegian Cruise Line ships. She moved back to Colorado for a year to teach massage therapy at IBMC College in Fort Collins. Wanting to be closer to family, she moved back to Pennsylvania and opened and operated her own wellness business in Center City Philadelphia for 10 years. During that time, she met and married her husband and became pregnant with their daughter.
In May 2015, Daniels life changed when her daughter was born 15 weeks early as a micro preemie. Her newborn spent 98 days in the hospital and accumulated significant health care expenses. Daniels decided she wanted a college degree to make sure that she could provide for her daughter and that they would have good health care.
“When choosing a college, Penn State Lehigh Valley appealed to me because of the many choices of majors and the fantastic reputation of its advisers and professors,” Daniels said.
Originally, she was planning to be a business major and then started looking at the job market in the Lehigh Valley. She realized there were many job openings for supply chain majors. She sought a recession-proof job with great potential for advancement. So, Daniels decided a project and supply chain management major would give her an advantage because she could move into any area of manufacturing when she started looking for a job.
Daniels started at Penn State Lehigh Valley in January 2016 juggling a full class schedule, while working full-time and caring for her 8-month-old daughter. She said her professors realize many students are working, raising a family and taking classes, so they understand scheduling challenges and are usually willing to have some flexibility.
Ray Hitti, lecturer in international business at Penn State Lehigh Valley, said it’s priceless to influence his students’ lives in a positive way.
“I treat and listen to every student intently. I try to cater my courses based on their needs and career interests. Giving them real life scenarios is what they tend to gravitate towards,” he said.
Daniels said she remembers some real-life stories from her International Business course with Hitti that continue to assist her at her job today.
Daniels said she found that her professors and advisers were always willing to talk about what she could expect from certain classes and majors. Since many of them are currently working or have previously worked in their chosen fields, their passion is apparent, and, if they didn’t have the information she needed, they were always willing to connect her with someone who did.
In Fall 2017, Daniels applied for internships at manufacturers and in May 2018 she started with Mack Trucks in materials as an intern at the Lehigh Valley plant. Three months later, she was hired as an operations supervisor in materials. A little over a year later – and five months after graduating from Penn State Lehigh Valley – Daniels was promoted to production manager at Mack’s Remanufacturing Plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
Daniels reports to Imran Malik, site supervisor at Mack’s remanufacturing plant.
“Vernell is an integral part of the plant’s leadership team. In a traditional assembly plant, the supply chain and project side of running a department exists, but this is accelerated in a remanufacturing plant, since material may be ‘scrapped’ at many stages of the process, or may need some type of specialized repair or treatment. I believe that Vernell’s understanding of the supply chain side of the business has been responsible for her success in working to improve the efficiency of the plant,” Malik said.
Mack remanufactured, or REMACK, parts are engineered to deliver maximum performance, reliability and increased uptime while keeping trucks 100% Mack.
“I use my degree every day. As part of the leadership team, I’m constantly looking at our suppliers, projections, forecasts, volumes and parts. People management skills are an important part of my job. I’m extremely transparent with my team because I want them to trust me. Following through to acknowledge my team and answer questions is important. There’s a lot of pride in working for Mack. Our employees are passionate about their jobs. We are always making sure we can give our customer the best product,” Daniels said.