BY REBECCA NAGY
Graduation is typically seen as a time for reflection among our seniors – a time to take stock of the experiences we were able to pack into the four (or more) years we had here at NC State. And Kaitlin Perkins has a lot of experiences worth remembering.
A Pack Promise scholar and dean’s list recipient, Kaitlin landed sought-after internships with Johnson and Johnson Vision Care and Campbell’s Soup Company. And not many people can say they had the opportunity to meet and introduce former First Lady Michelle Obama to the campus community when she spoke at NC State.
But its Kaitlin’s commitment to citizenship and service that she’s most proud of. From her active role in the Caldwell fellows to her involvement and leadership with the National Society of Black Engineers and Alternative Spring Break trips, Kaitlin’s passion for giving back to the community is evident. It’s clear why she was recognized with the College of Engineering’s Award for Citizenship and Service.
What drew you to NC State and then to BAE?
The academic resources, ground-breaking research, enormous engineering career fair, and plethora of engineering majors drew me to NC State. I knew I wanted to attend a university that was large and had a variety of organizations that I could explore, but NC State stood out to me since the time I stepped onto campus. When I attended the Overnight-Stay Program held by the Women and Minority Engineering department, I knew that attending NC State meant that I would have a support system that would help me succeed.
I made it my duty and mission to inspire other young students to pursue engineering, because I knew that if my godmother did not encourage me, I wouldn’t have considered engineering as an option.
I was later drawn to BAE because of their small class-sizes, focus on hands-on learning, variety of challenging coursework applicable to different industries, and bioprocessing concentration. It was Dr. Hale that eagerly answered my questions when I was trying to decide on an engineering discipline. Needless to say, I was led in the right direction when I matriculated into the BAE department.
What do you think led to your winning of the COE Award in Citizenship and Service? What does that mean to you?
My passion for giving back to my community, especially to underrepresented groups in STEM is what led me to win the COE Award for Citizenship and Service. I made it my duty and mission to inspire other young students to pursue engineering, because I knew that if my godmother did not encourage me, I wouldn’t have considered engineering as an option. I dedicated my college career to organizations such as Math Science Education Network, first as a volunteer and then as a Teaching Assistant for a Research Methods course in which I helped bright, high school students from rural parts of NC learn the fundamentals of research, physics, and how to apply engineering principles to solve complex problems. My love for serving marginalized communities motivated me to travel abroad to El Remate, Guatemala as well as Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic for an Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip. From teaching English to elementary and high school students to volunteering at a diabetes clinic, I gained an invaluable appreciation for serving communities outside of my own. I never envisioned receiving an award such as this for my humanitarian efforts, but am very thankful that my dedication and hard work was acknowledged.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I will be working with Pfizer in their Rotational Development Program. I will have the opportunity to work in four different departments, ranging from engineering to more technical positions, in two years.
Do not forget to take the time to reflect and to cherish the experiences made outside of the classroom, because that is where the true magic happens!
What would you say is your “one big thing” – the thing you’re most proud of during your time at NC State?
It is hard to choose one single thing that I am most proud of during my time at NC State. I have had the opportunity to both meet and introduce former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama and intern with Johnson and Johnson Vision Care and Campbell’s Soup Company. However, I am most proud of my involvement with the National Society of Black Engineers. I served as the 2016-17 Region II Pre-College Initiative Chair where I developed a Black Excellence Initiative to increase the amount of black engineers in STEM through effective programming and creation of new NSBE Jr. chapters. Within this role I organized a 3-day STEM conference for K-12 students and had the opportunity to inspire students across 6 different states in eastern North Carolina to pursue engineering. It was because of this leadership role that I now have greater confidence in my leadership abilities and was able to grow immensely as a person as I networked, planned, and engaged with people all over the United States.
What advice would you give incoming students?
I would encourage students to get involved and find their passion, being intentional about what they invest their time and energy into. It is crucial that you operate outside of your comfort zone at times, because that is when you experience the most growth. Lastly, do not forget to take the time to reflect and to cherish the experiences made outside of the classroom, because that is where the true magic happens!
College of Engineering
Citizenship and Service Award