Greetings! How are you? I hope you’re doing well! As I write this, it’s still Tuesday, April 29. So today as a member of the Catholic Church, I’m celebrating the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena. She was pretty awesome so I highly recommend checking out who she is, regardless of your religion. It’s really appropriate that I’m writing this post on her feast day because my favorite quote of all time by St. Catherine of Siena is: “If you are what you should be, you shall set the world on fire.” How awesome is that? So, this is appropriate because of the joy I found in today.

My joy of engineering is: passion.

Tonight, I participated in “Fred Talks” as part of of the Campus Honors Program, which was essentially TED talks for a smaller organization. It’s awesome to see how passionate people are whether it be a physics major talking about why organic foods aren’t all their cracked up to be or a programmer discussing the future of Bitcoins. Earlier that day, I sat in the CUBE office doing homework while one of our project teams met to finish their final presentation to their client. This team lost their project manager earlier this semester due to time conflicts, so this team currently works autonomously without a designated leader. It was great to see how much they cared about producing a quality final product for their client as a collective group.

CUBE Consulting

I need to admit it everyone. I feel extremely passionate about CUBE Consulting and engineering. Can you believe it? (I promise that was sarcasm!)

I love to see passion in other people and share my passions with others. I love to a person become animated, eyes gleaming with excitement, talking with fervent enthusiasm when their passion is mentioned. Sometimes my engineering classes are really freaking hard. Sometimes I have mountains of homework. Sometimes I just want to crawl into bed with a book and mug of tea at 5 pm instead of emailing people and studying. I think everyone has those moments. It is witnessing passion, this unbridled joy for a certain topic, which reminds me of why I work so hard. My fire is rekindled and I share my passion with others in hopes of helping them to continue finding motivation. Passions inspire. Thank you for sharing your passions, both with me and with others.

Happy not-Monday-anymore! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you had a good Monday too. As of now, I have only one more Monday of classes left. I can’t believe this semester flew by already. Only a few more weeks and I’ll be a senior. Maybe that will be a joy of engineering at some point: You’re busy that you barely notice how much time flies past until graduation is less than 365 days away. But that will be saved for another day!

My joy in engineering today is: #WIEchooseIllinois.

#WIEchooseIllinois is a trending hashtag for Twitter that means Women in Engineering (WIE) choose Illinois. Tonight I participated in a Twitter chat for admitted students to ask questions about what it was like to be a woman in engineering at Illinois. I sat in a room some really beautiful women whose many talents include leadership, engineering (of course!), entrepreneurship, advocacy, etc. We answered admitted student questions and also shared stories of our past 3-4 years at Illinois. I loved seeing these incredible women sharing their Illinois experiences: researching to cure cancer, visiting Silicon Valley to learn more about start-up culture, leading the Society of Women Engineers, studying abroad and so much more. The level of passion for engineering and Illinois in the room was almost tangible.

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Did I mention the Alma Mater is back after her restoration? My first picture with the University of Illinois icon was as an admitted student when I came for orientation during the summer of 2011.

The other reason that my joy of engineering is #WIEchooseIllinois is because three years ago this month I made the decision to come to the University of Illinois. I had only visited Illinois twice. Everyone in my hometown thought UIUC was in Chicago, not Urbana-Champaign. It was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had as a student here at Illinois. I’m so very thankful for the people who chose to come to Illinois with me. I can’t imagine losing even one person from the communities I love like the Catholic Newman Center’s Koinonia “family”, the WIMSE (Women in Math, Science and Engineering) Living-Learning Community dorms, CUBE Consulting, etc. These people have changed my life. Not in a sappy way, but in a way that I will use to help me continue to become a better version of myself throughout the rest of my life.

So to all of my friends and fellow (or former) University of Illinois students: Thank you for choosing Illinois!

Hello again! I hope your day is just as beautiful as Illinois right now. It’s all blue skies and seventy degrees here. I love it!

Today my joy of engineering is: professors and TAs care.

At such a large university, it can be easy to feel like a number rather than a human being. Large lectures of 300 people can be kind of scary and overwhelming. Sometimes I have to take class with professors who teach because it’s in the job requirement, not because they like it. This is inevitable and I know I’ve been desensitized to this fact over the past few years.

For the past month, I’ve been serving as one of the undergraduates on a committee of faculty and staff talking about how to improve undergraduate education as a whole called C-CUE. As an engineering student, it’s easy to notice that the focus of most of my science and engineering professors is on their research, not their students. This is precisely why I enjoyed being on C-CUE. I loved every moment spent with this committee because the ultimate tone underlying our discussions was compassion for students. These professors, academics, leaders of the university, etc. truly care about making sure every student leaves the university completely transformed by his or her education. And I think that together these people have the power to change undergraduate education and inspire more academic professionals to care about their undergraduates.

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Karen Hyman, one of my first professors at Illinois, has become a mentor to me. She also served on C-CUE with me. I really appreciate how much she cares about her students (including me!). She awarded the Golden Shamrock by Knights of St. Patrick for 2014.

Also, as my discussion sections end, I must reiterate my appreciation for people in my academic life who care that I succeed as a student. Most of my discussion sections in college have consisted of graduate student TAs (teaching assistants) who worked out problems to teach me and my fellow undergraduate students how to apply difficult concepts learned in lecture. Throughout my college career, I have been very lucky to have discussion sections with some great TAs who were excellent teachers. This post goes out to my two TAs this semester: Andy for mass transfer and Andrea for engineering statistics (as well as my former TAs from previous semesters). These graduate students know what we don’t understand and teach material in such a way that I know what’s important and useful. So to any TA or former TA who might be reading this, thank you. You are greatly appreciated.

 

Hello! So I wanted to start actually writing blog posts earlier than this, but Firefox has been giving me 404 errors whenever I tried to access my website. A little bit of troubleshooting and a few cleared histories later, I’m finally able to write my first post for my “The Joys of Engineering” series which I will be abbreviating JoE. Why? Because it looks like JOY!

My joy of engineering today was: Being a person.

A few weeks ago, I had 4 engineering exams in the same week. It was not a fun experience, but I survived! At the end of the week, I felt more like a “brain on a stick” regurgitating information than I did a person with thoughts and feelings because that’s what my professors expected of me.

Today, I had brunch with a friend (and fellow engineering student). We barely talked about engineering the whole time. It was refreshing! When you live with three other engineers, it seems like engineering and classes are the only two subjects that come up with. It was refreshing to spend the morning with Bill talking about life, God, the future, our families, etc. just catching up with a good friend. I’m so busy with the end of the semester that I really appreciated the respite from studies and extracurricular activities.

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Breakfast in the UK. Because no matter where you are, breakfast is important. And it’s always more fun in good company. (I plan on inserting random, semi-relevant photos into JoE posts for fun. Enjoy!)

In the afternoon, I also had the opportunity to meet with Michael Loui, who’s a professor on campus specializing in engineering education. I loved hearing about his journey from Hawaii to the Midwest to become a scholar in computer engineering to become the editor-in-chief of the Journal for Engineering Education. In return for hearing about his path, he listened to my journey as a student and gave me advice on my future career as I look beyond my own graduation next year. He gave me advice and tips on my future which I sincerely appreciated. Not all of my professors are so open with me. Talking to Professor Loui today was a joy and also very beneficial to my future.

In order to find joy in engineering, I think, as a student, I have to go beyond the day-to-day work of being a chemical engineering undergraduate student. I want to be more than a GPA. I want to be a person. So when you have an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings with other people (who may or may not be engineers) like this, you find a joy of engineering.

I’m back!

Yes, I promise. That’s my commitment to you. I apologize for the hiatus, but it’s been for good reasons. So, what’s happened since my last blog post? Here are the experiences I’m grateful for over the past 2 months:

  • I was knighted as a Knight of St. Patrick with friends, family and many amazing people from the College of Engineering. Iam honored and humbled by the entire experience.

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    My roommates (and best friends) and I at the Knights of St. Patrick ball after I was knighted.

  • I went on NFK (Newman Foundation Koinoinia) 121 as a team member where I helped participants return to God and grew deeper in my faith. It was beautiful!
  • I helped film physical chemistry lectures (check out Lecture 24!) to help as one my professor’s from last semester continues to develop and improve his flipped classroom learning style. It’s been an awesome learning experience for me.
  • I traveled to Minneapolis for spring break to job shadow at Cargill for the Cargill Global Scholars program. I learned so much from my mentor about how companies are improving the training of their engineers–I was introduced to a new type of engineering education! And afterwards, I traveled to visit my cousin (a PhD student at the University of Minnesota) and my aunt, uncle and cousin who live in Milwaukee.
  • I’ve been serving as 1 of 2 undergraduates on a Campus Conversation for Undergraduate Education working group pertaining to Integrative, Interdisciplinary and Experiential Education. We’ve been discussing how to improve undergraduate education by making general education requirements more meaningful, increasing the opportunities students of different majors work together, etc.
  • Finally, my pride and joy of the past 2 months: This past Friday, Karen Lamb and I finished our final draft of our paper International Experiential Education in Engineering: a Case Study of Junior Enterprise after 4 months of work and the challenge of writing a draft paper in less than 10 days. We will be published authors presenting this paper at the American Society of Engineering Education’s International Forum during their annual conference in Indianapolis this June. It’s a major opportunity to spread the Junior Enterprise concept throughout the US and I’m so excited!!

So, I think I have a reason for my hiatus. I apologize for committing to posting more blogs and failing at it though. And with that I bring you… (drumroll please!)

A new blog series!

The Joys of Engineering

Last semester, I was in a slump, constantly questioning my future vocation as an engineer. This semester, I’ve realized how blessed I am and how much engineering has taught me. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve been given because they’ve helped me grow as a person and learn so much about the natural world. I love being on the forefront of technology, developing new scientific advances which will make the world a better place.

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Karen Lamb and I presenting our ASEE paper on Junior Enterprise at a poster session for chemical engineering. I learned so much about joy in engineering from researching the benefits of CUBE Consulting and Junior Enterprise.

With this change of heart, I have noticed a culture of negativity that pervades my education as an engineer: complaining about a professor, being upset over grades, depression over work and studies, etc. So many people tell me, “I just want to go work as an engineer.” One friend confessed to me that she has nervous breakdowns when she has drive from home back to school because being at the university is so stressful. As an empathetic person, I feel overwhelmed by desolation within engineering students.

I want to change this perception.

University is an amazing time for students to grow in all facets of their lives. Our time studying at university should not be spent wishing it were over already. We should enjoy every moment of this academic freedom where we have so many opportunities to learn about anything whether it be engineering, social sciences, history or even faith. College is a journey to the rest of our lives where we will be busy with a normal 9-to-5 work schedule, paying back student loans, creating a family, being members of our community, etc. I want to encourage you to make the most of this journey.

How?

I’m going to write a brief blog at least 3 times a week about the Joys of Engineering whether it be a new scientific development that’s awesome (ie: a possible cure to ALS), something exciting in my own life as an engineering student (ie: becoming a Knight of St. Patrick), or a spotlight on friends who are doing amazing things in engineering. I want to empower you, if you’re an engineering student or even if you’re not, to find joy within your own life every single day. I think that this will also help me to maintain my optimism so that I can try to be a light to others everyday. I believe that if you make the most of everyday God’s given you, you shall find happiness. Take the journey with me and we’ll travel this road of joy together! See you soon!

Credit to Shea Acott’s The Gratitude Project and 100 Happy Days for the inspiration for this blog series. Both movements have been beautiful. I’m so excited to see where this project takes me!

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