"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning."
When I first stepped foot on campus four years ago, my understanding of the word engineer did not extend far beyond "someone that builds things". Reflecting on the journey that has brought me here to my final semester of college, I can confidently say I now know what makes an engineer. In large part, this understanding is directly attributed to the many experiences I have undertaken through the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. I was motivated by the program to pursue coursework and experiences to fulfill the five primary components of research, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, global, and service learning. In doing this, I saw myself as an engineer in a different light. An engineer is a researcher and investigator, a leader and student, an entrepreneur and innovator, and a global citizen and community member.
I was fortunate to start my journey right away as part of FSE 194/150 my first semester of my freshman year. This course helped me to immediately understand what were the Grand Challenges of Engineering facing our society. More than this knowledge, I learned how to work with a team, and I got to know my engineering community on a much more personal level. To this day, some of the students I met in that class are some of my closest friends.
Following this introduction to the program, I began my involvement in EPICS. Participating in the EPICS program set the tone for what would become a hallmark of my undergraduate career. It was in EPICS that I began work on FitStart Kids. This project eventually became a full startup venture and was the catalyst for my entrepreneurial journey. EPICS and FitStart ignited a passion for entrepreneurship I had not yet come to realize. Once this fire was lit, I took off on a crazy entrepreneurial journey that came to define me, my college career, and my goals and plans for the future. Through participation in various pitches, competitions, and programs, including Social Venture Partners, Women's Business Enterprise Council, eSeed, Prescott Fellows, Changemaker Challenge, and BioAccel Solutions Challenge, I not only gained valuable business insights, but also valuable friends, mentors, and teachers.
While throwing myself into entrepreneurship, I continued to roundout my interest and passion for health, my chosen focus area, through the other components of GCSP. Courses like "Food and Culture" and "Nutrigenomics", along with experiences leading the Well Devil Coalition and conducting research on physical activity through WalkIT-Adolescent, expanded my understanding of the challenges we face in health as a local and global community. These experiences provided me background to understand the complexities of the health issues we face as a society. Entrepreneurship gave me a platform to work to create solutions to these problems.
GCSP taught me that to be an engineer, one does not need to simply crunch numbers or construct prototypes. More than anything else, an engineer is a problem solver. An engineer walks through life, notices problems, and asks, "How can I fix this?". With the lessons I learned through my GCSP journey, I seek to move forward to the next stage of my life maintaining this critical-thinking and analytical mindset. No matter what field I pursue, the ability and skills to think like an engineer are vital to success. We must never stop questioning, and we must never stop seeking to better and improve ourselves, our community, and our fundamental, global human network. I believe that this is the largest takeaway my involvement in GCSP has taught me. We will always face "grand challenges", and it is through an engineering mindset that we must seek to find solutions to these challenges.