Dean Papajohn, associate professor of practice who leads the Construction Engineering Management emphasis in Civil and Architectural Engineering and Mechanics, welcomed participants to the department’s virtual convocation ceremony with his signature greeting, adapted for the situation.
“It’s a beautiful day in Tucson today, and it’s a beautiful day to graduate. And what we lack in pomp, we’re making up for with circumstance.”
His words rang true. This year’s departmental convocation ceremonies, switched to a virtual format at the 11th hour due to COVID-19 restrictions, were truly one of a kind. They also celebrated a class that was one of a kind.
Members of the Class of 2020 conducted research on aircraft design, water quality and the science of soundwaves. They built canoes out of concrete. They worked to make mines safer, biomedical devices more efficient, and our campus -- and our world -- more sustainable. They mentored classmates and competed in national competitions. At the ceremonies, the college honored an outstanding graduating senior from each of its 15 majors.
“You are taking the final steps after years of hard work to becoming an official Wildcat Engineering graduate,” David W. Hahn, Craig M. Berge Dean of the College of Engineering, said in an opening statement. “Today is the story of your triumph and a celebration of your success as a student and an engineer.”
Following in Family’s Footsteps
Hector Garavito served as secretary for the UA chapter of the Design-Build Institute of America and worked as a member of the student Green Team in the university’s Office of Sustainability. He is this year’s outstanding senior in architectural engineering -- and a member of the program’s first graduating class.
His mother attended college in Mexico, but, as the oldest of four siblings, he was the first to attend college in the United States.
“My grandpa was a civil engineer in Mexico, and my mom has an architecture degree, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” he said. “I’ll be starting my full-time job on June 1. I’m moving to Phoenix to work as a field engineer on a $4 billion job for Hensel Phelps.”
Building Lasting Community
Kirk Dahl, this year’s outstanding senior in aerospace engineering, will also be starting a full-time position in June, as a systems engineer at Raytheon. Originally, however, he wanted to be a pilot.
“I ended up choosing aerospace engineering, and I fell in love with it,” said Dahl, who was involved with Students for Sustainability, the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and Engineers Without Borders.
“There are hundreds of clubs on campus, and I’m sure I missed out on a lot of opportunities, but the ones that I chose were absolutely worth it. I really enjoyed the community I was able to create for myself, as well as how we impacted others.”
Aiming to Help People
Outstanding senior in engineering management Elizabeth Seader, who minored in systems engineering, wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in when she started college, but the lifelong UA fan knew she was good at math, and she liked helping people.
“At orientation, one of the professors said, ‘Engineers are people who make things that help people,’ and I just thought, ‘This is perfect. This is exactly where I need to be.’”
Seader excelled in her major. She joined the American Society for Engineering Management, or ASEM, and competed at the organization’s national conference. Her capstone team designed a slide randomizer for sponsor Roche Tissue Diagnostics that won for best design documentation at the virtual Craig M. Berge Engineering Design Day 2020.
She started interning as a supplier engineer for Raytheon in summer 2019, and, by October, the company had offered her a position as a systems engineer at its Boston location. She invited company representatives to a campus ASEM career night, and they ended up offering jobs to three more students.
Amassing the Best Tools
Outstanding senior in environmental engineering, and double major in chemical engineering, Carlos Weiler, was drawn to engineering for a similar reason.
“One of my biggest goals in life is to be a part of something that has the ability to change the world for the better,” he said. “I believe that a combination of chemical and environmental engineering will give me the best tools to make an impact on the world.”
As an undergraduate, he interned at PepsiCo and Freeport McMoRan, and he conducted wastewater research as a NASA Space Grant recipient. Next, Weiler will be pursuing a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Virginia.
Looking to the Future
Whatever the Class of 2020 goes on to accomplish, Ann Wilkey, alumna of the year for the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering, emphasized in her convocation speech that the world needs these young engineers now more than ever.
“As the world acknowledges COVID-19 and other problems, it needs problem solvers like you,” she said. “We need your energy. We need your creativity and your vision of a better future. Where there are no problems, there are no opportunities. So, I encourage you to embrace these new problems, seek solutions and reap the opportunities they present.”
Congratulations 2020 Outstanding Graduating Seniors!
Aerospace Engineering: Kirk Dahl
Architectural Engineering: Hector Garavito
Biomedical Engineering: Brandon Nguyen
Biosystems Engineering: Annie Brunton
Chemical Engineering: Nate Marshall
Civil Engineering: Drew Jenkins
Electrical and Computer Engineering: Michael Bullock
Engineering Management: Elizabeth Seader
Environmental Engineering: Carlos Weiler
Industrial Engineering: Abdullah Al-Battashi
Materials Science and Engineering: Rachel Gorelik
Mechanical Engineering: Rachel Greenland
Mining Engineering: Chad Julius
Optical Sciences and Engineering: John Mack
Systems Engineering: Kelsey Ingerson