Students manage their time and energy in the pursuit of an engineering degree, and the demands are high. Each Spring, the faculty of CCEE bestows four Senior Awards to a select group of graduating seniors who have gone above and beyond in their academic quests. On May 10, this year’s winners accepted their honors at the College of Engineering Senior Banquet: Meredith Bullard for Citizenship and Service, Shane Estridge for Leadership, Jiawen Liu for Scholarly Achievement, and Eric Polli for Humanities.
The Senior Award for Citizenship and Service recognizes significant humanitarian contributions that improve the welfare of fellow citizens and the community. For Meredith Bullard, service takes place through teaching and mentoring. She is the daughter of two engineers, and her mother is a Teaching Professor at NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Bullard says engineering challenges were often discussed around the dinner table. “Usually it would end with my mother saying that something would make a good test question on her next exam,” Bullard says. “Problem solving and critical thinking followed me throughout childhood.”
Bullard served as an Engineering Ambassador (EA) for the College of Engineering, spending countless hours planning events including the Engineering Open House held each Spring and Fall. The event is attended by several thousand prospective students and their families and Bullard says that she loves seeing the young students connect with NC State. In her role as an EA, she also focused on STEM outreach to elementary and middle school students, and served as a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Engineering & Problem solving class in the College of Engineering.
Upon graduation Bullard plans to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech and says that her dream would be to end up back at NC State as a professor.
Shane Estridge was the CCEE recipient of the Senior Award for Leadership. He is from Denver, North Carolina, a small town outside Charlotte, and is the first in his family to attend college. He credits his participation in the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and several internships with developing his leadership skills. By his senior year, he was President of ASCE and served as Captain of the Steel Bridge Team. The team will be competing in Corvallis, Oregon, in late May 2017. This is only the second time in NC State history that the team has progressed to the national level. “I learned that it takes constant communication to keep people rallied around the same goal,” Estridge said. “I also learned to delegate. At first I tried to take on too much myself, but I realized that things run smoother if more people are helping.”
Estridge’s role as Steel Bridge Captain required balancing the team’s goal of fabricating a competitive bridge while ensuring the transfer of knowledge to the younger team members to sustain success into the future.
He credits his internships with Duke Energy for introducing him to his career as an engineer in the nuclear power generation industry. He has accepted a job with AREVA, a global consulting firm working in the nuclear energy field. They have an office in Charlotte, and he is pleased that he will be able to live near his family while working in a field he’s passionate about.
In addition to earning her degree in Environmental Engineering with a perfect GPA, Jiawen Liu also earned a minor in Math. While pursuing her degrees, she worked at the University Tutoring Center teaching calculus, physics and chemistry. She also worked as a research assistant with several professors within CCEE. Her research interests were spurred while in high school in China. Growing up in a small town along the east coast of China’s Zhejiang province, Liu took note of the air and water pollution. “Our skies were always gray, and the river running behind my high school was heavily polluted,” Liu explains. “In high school, I did a science project on improving water quality for that river.”
Beyond the engineering approaches to solving environmental issues for her home country, Liu is also interested in pursuing the policy side of the problem. “I might pursue a law degree someday,” she says. Her immediate plans are to pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. First, she’ll spend some time with family in China this summer, and then return to the west coast of the U.S. “I have loved my time at NC State and am sad to leave,” Liu said. “The professors have been so supportive, and the students here like to share knowledge and study together. We work in groups here, and that has allowed me to know more people in my major and it opens your mind when you see that people have different ways of thinking about the same problem.”
The Engineering Senior Award for the Humanities is given in recognition of a student who, in addition to high achievement and academic standing in engineering, has shown equal commitment to a broad liberal education in the social sciences, arts, or humanities. This year’s recipient, Eric Polli, acquired a second degree in Spanish Language and Literature. “Throughout my education I have valued art and the humanities as much as I have math and the physical sciences,” Polli says.
Polli spent a semester during his sophomore year living with a family in Quito, Ecuador, while he studied at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. It allowed him total immersion into the culture and Spanish language. “My aim for studying abroad was to develop a more humanistic perspective as well as a more globally oriented thought process,” Polli says. While in Ecuador, Polli worked with a nonprofit organization that allowed him to interact with multiple indigenous populations and learn about their work to protect their lands from further misuse and exploitation of their natural resources. He says that experience humbled him and pushed him to think deeper about how Environmental Engineering can affect people. He says the most valuable aspect of those experiences was to learn to examine a problem from both an engineer’s perspective and a humanitarian’s perspective.
Polli will return to CCEE in the Fall 2017 and begin work toward a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering.
The students were honored with lunch and a small stipend from Freese and Nichols, as well as recognized at the Senior Banquet hosted by the College of Engineering.