In a way, María Patricia Echeverry serving on the Industrial Engineering Department's Industry Advisory Board is a “full circle” moment for the UH graduate – from an undergrad collaborating with the college, to Master's student and industry professional, and now, an expert lending her expertise back to the school.
Echeverry earned her B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. While there, she learned about the links between that college and Cullen, and it made her interested in attending when she found herself in the metro area.
“When my husband was transferred to Houston some years later, I already knew that I would be looking to obtain my Master’s from UH due to its location and its size,” she said. “The diversity and tenure of my professors, and the diversity of my peers, made it an excellent experience!”
Echeverry earned her Master's in 2004, and soon joined Cadeco Industries – the sister company of Gulf Coast Distillers – as a production manager in October 2004. She was promoted to general manager in 2007, serving in that role for more than seven years.
In 2014, Echeverry was deeply involved in the process of creating Gulf Coast Distillers from its inception.
“We continue growing every year, and GCD is now the largest distillery west of the Mississippi,” she said. “We just expanded our capacity with the installation of our distillation column, in addition to our potstills. That includes Big Dave, which is a massive 4,000 gallon potstill. We produce a variety of spirits, including bourbon, whiskey, brandy and vodka. We have a unique tasting room, and tours for visitors to see our process and learn about the unique spirits we produce here in the heart of Houston.”
After working as GM for Gulf Coast Distillers for a couple of years, Echeverry became the Vice President of Operations for the group of companies in 2016, overseeing the coffee, distillery and sugar operations. Her total tenure with the group is now more than 18 years.
This isn't the first time that Echeverry has provided her time and expertise to the college either. For three semesters in 2013 and 2014, she served as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor at the College of Technology, teaching courses focused on Quality Improvement Methods and Lean Six Sigma.
“When Dr. Gino Lim [R. Larry and Gerlene R. Snider Endowed Chairman of IE] invited me to be part of the Advisory Board, it was an honor, and I love the opportunity of being able to strengthen my link to the IE Department, and to give back to the university and learn from my colleagues,” she said.
“I am passionate about Industrial Engineering and manufacturing,” she said, noting that her range of experiences in the work force allow her to bring vital skills to the IAB.
“By being in Houston and working in food production environments that are part of a family business, I am exposed to opportunities and experiences that are different from those of other members who work in oil and gas, service industries or other workplaces. That combination of skills and profiles is invaluable for the Advisory Board.”