Rachel Linder, awardee of a 2019 SME Education Foundation Family Scholarship, found that engineering was an educational path to pursue when she realized that it combined her strengths and interests.
Enjoying math and science courses in high school, she also explored creative interests as well, particularly in the graphic design area (achieving certifications in Adobe tools). “Creativity and design are part of engineering, as is problem solving. While chemistry isn’t a strong suit of mine, I did love calculus, biology, physics: the STEM classes. It really set me up to pursue engineering.”
Now a student at the University of Louisville studying mechanical engineering, Rachel credits support and encouragement from her parents (her father, Charles Linder, an industrial engineer with Mazak Corp. and an SME member since 1996) and engaging teachers for her preparation.
“My parents are a big help — family is very important to me. My dad and I talked at length about the role of engineers: it’s so open with opportunities. He also told me about the SME Education Foundation’s scholarships.”
The Union, Kentucky, native found her early classes both exciting and challenging. “College is so different than high school. I was prepared for tough classes, having taken advanced science and math classes. But the format of both instruction and study requires refining study habits; active engagement in class and a real commitment. I’ve also learned that comparing performance to classmates isn’t productive — stay focused, aim high and work harder. That’s where the grit comes in.”
Rachel felt ready and energized as she returned to school in 2020. “It’s a new year, a clean slate — good practices are established and feeling comfortable on campus — I was ready!” Then the coronavirus upended everything. “I had found my groove, and then we were uprooted and found ourselves back home, first for a week…then for months.” The situation called for flexibility and a different perspective: “I really missed the immediate interaction with professors; being away from peers and classmates. I can learn from the prerecorded lectures and even appreciate the ability to go back and review content, but I was glad when we progressed to hybrid classes, which brought back some level of real interaction.”
Reflecting on the future, Rachel believes that her engineering path will bring her “the opportunity to make an impact — on people; society. I want to know that what I do is a benefit to those around me; to society. “Being a young woman pursuing study in a field more typically sought by men is not daunting, though. It can be awkward to walk into a big lecture or class and see only one other woman. But, really, while I can see how it could be intimidating, it doesn’t bother me: I know I can deliver.”
“I’m grateful for the Foundation’s support. Not only does it relieve financial stress, it is so affirming. I know that people see potential in me; people who say, ‘you can do this!’”