Executives from one of the country's top motor companies say transportation design students at Brigham Young University are different from the rest because they work together.

"This is unique because we are talking about an individualized area that is competitive," said George Crynick, personnel manager of Ford's design staff. "It is difficult to break from the individual and work together, but it is good for the industry."Crynick said Ford has placed more emphasis on teamwork in recent months. He and Walter Gollwitzer, manager of Ford's advanced exterior concepts and pilot studio design staff, were in Provo last week to review student design projects and to select Ford summer interns.

The 16 transportation design students have worked all semester on their conception of the next-generation Ford Thunderbird. Their project includes numerous sketches of the car, a life-size sketch or painting of the car and a smaller clay/fiber-glass model.

The conceptualization represents the 1995 Thunderbird and will take the place of the 1989 Thunderbird that officially comes on the market Dec. 26. During the presentation, the 1989 model - on loan from Rick Warner Ford - was on display at BYU.

Students majoring in transportation design enter the program their sophomore year if they are accepted. BYU's program - established four years ago - works each semester with either General Motors or Ford in a design project.

More detail is expected as students progress through the program, said John Marshall, professor of transportation design. Next semester, students will be working with General Motors on the next-generation truck.

"This represents 90 to 100 hours a week of work," he said "This is worse than law school by far."

Crynick and Gollwitzer reviewed each student's conception, critiqued the work and gave the students and teachers suggestions on how to improve the program. In the past years, a company designer has spent the semester with students, but this year the company let the school try it on its own.

"BYU has made tremendous progress in the past four years," Gollwitzer said. "This is the strongest class I've ever seen. Usually some stand out, but everyone is doing an outstanding job this year."

Crynick agreed. "The progress you have made is a credit to the whole group. It's a good example of synergy and building on each other and learning."

BYU is the only university in the country that teaches transportation design, Marshall said. The other schools are professional design studios.

"I think BYU is stacking up," Crynick said. "Some design centers have been around for 20 or 30 years, but when you consider what BYU has done with its program in the last four years, I would say it stacks up very well."

Gollwitzer said getting a university degree also makes it clear to employers that students have a deeper academic background. "There are certainly benefits to that."

Crynick said Ford looks at the total quality of applicants when they consider them for jobs. "Our success is predicted on the people we have. That's a big plus for Brigham Young University."

"We are very careful in selecting people, whether they are interns or full-time employees. The auto industry is a contracting work force and the criteria are different every year. We are only looking for the best people."

Crynick said BYU interns at Ford have fared well and are "equal to or sometimes better than the other schools."

During the four years transportation design has been in place at BYU's design department, three students have taken full-time jobs with the companies - one at Ford and two at General Motors.