Felicity Sierra, a mechanical engineering major from Chicago was selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of Kiewit Scholars in Nebraska Engineering. Through the program, students gain unparalleled leadership opportunities and career development experiences that will help them become leading professionals in their future jobs and communities.
How would you explain the Kiewit Scholars program to someone that’s never heard of it?
The Kiewit Scholars program is a selective program made up of ten students majoring in engineering. This scholarship was developed by a well-known construction and engineering company Kiewit. The benefits of receiving this scholarship include full tuition along with a book stipend, first-year housing, a study abroad stipend and a lifelong network.
Talk about why you decided to apply to Nebraska, and specifically go into mechanical engineering.
I applied to about 18 different colleges with many components in mind. For instance, the tuition, population, attractions and academics. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was one of the many great institutions that met those criteria but most importantly, offered a lot of scholarship opportunities.
Throughout the college decision process, there was one constant variable; my major. At the time I was very set on pursuing computer engineering given that I participated in clubs like Robotics, Girls Who Code, and was a part of a Tech team and STEM-based classes. It was not until I began my college classes that I steered towards mechanical engineering. I knew that I wanted to have more of a kinesthetic approach in whichever path I chose which is why mechanical engineering felt like the best option. It is a very broad discipline that can still allow me to explore my interests like Artificial Intelligence.
Talk about the process you went through to apply for Kiewit Scholars.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln was one of the many universities I applied to but one of the few that offered a separate invitation to a scholarship program. The college of engineering sent out the invitation to apply to the program through, first a resume and essay questions, then an interview. Of over 300 applicants, I was one of the few selected to go to the next round, being interviews. The thought of being interviewed by several important executives and members of the College of Engineering was nerve-wracking but once the conversation began it was very natural. It was not until a couple of weeks later that I received an acceptance letter from the Kiewit Program, and it was the best moment in my life by far. I have never felt so relieved and happy; I knew in that moment that my life would be changed.
Kiewit Scholars offers various hands-on learning and networking opportunities to students. Talk about some unique opportunities you’ve experienced through your involvement so far.
My involvement in Kiewit Scholars has allowed me to be a part of large projects around the country, where I enhance my knowledge and expand my network. Not only do we get summer internships but there are often guest speakers that present to our class, leadership retreats and trips to attend the Kiewit University in Omaha. The internship is unique given that there are so many projects and locations to choose from with the freedom to explore any that you desire. This past summer I interned on the Northwest Extension Phase II project in Phoenix, Az. while there were some scholars in Hawaii and Texas.
What is your favorite part about this program?
My favorite part about this program is how personal it is. Kiewit chose 10 students to really help and focus on what we need to better not just our career but ourselves. It is a great feeling knowing that I can rely on executive members at Kiewit such as Jim Rowings, Doug Glaser and Darron Rolle for advice whether it be for school or my internship. They will always find a time in their busy day to respond while also making frequent trips to the University to speak to us scholars. Kiewit prioritizes our personal development which is what I appreciate the most.
The program is really selective, with hundreds applying and a handful being selected for each cohort. How has it been to experience college with a small group of students with similar passions to you.
It has been great and meaningful to have a set group to rely on in college. It can be difficult to balance classes, clubs and a social life but it is comforting to know that there are nine other people I can go to in the same position. The Kiewit Class on Mondays especially brings us together to discuss our values and passions. The program is responsible for some of the strongest friendships at which I found a best friend, a roommate, and study partner all in one.
How will your involvement in this program help you in the future?
My involvement in this program has already helped my future and I am confident that it will continue to do so. Not only will I be able to continue traveling around the world to expand my network, but I will be getting work experience. By the time I graduate, I will have had three summer internships in three different locations and three times the connections. The Kiewit Class also focuses on leadership and communication skills which will be beneficial in the workplace. I will have the skills, experience and network to be successful wherever I go.
What or who inspires/motivates you?
My family, including my parents, four older brothers, a nephew and a niece, inspire me the most. They have all individually gone through so much, but they found a way to get through it. My brothers never got the chance to go to college so everything I have done throughout my academic career has been for them.
Who has impacted your time at Nebraska?
My best friend and fellow Kiewit Scholar has impacted my time at Nebraska greatly. I had agreed to be her roommate before ever meeting her or knowing that we were in the same scholarship program; you could only imagine our disbelief when we found out. The university has such a large population, and the cohort has only 10 people, yet we managed to be roommates. I have had someone to lean on and be a part of the same experiences, from my very first day in Nebraska.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a student who wants to gain experience or mentorship in their field?
One piece of advice I would give to a student would be to jump at every opportunity you come by; you can’t wait for something to happen; you have to make it happen.
What is something you’ve learned that will stick with you after you graduate?
Something I have learned that will stick with me after graduation is that no matter how much you plan, something can go wrong; it is how you react to complications that really matters.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
Directly after graduation, I intend to take some time off from school and work so that I can just enjoy my last few moments in Nebraska. I will then move somewhere in the country to start working about eight months later, but I am unsure about which company or what position.