Andre Tharp III, an electrical engineering major with a minor in computer science from Portland, Oregon, and Sacramento, California, is heavily involved on campus, from joining a fraternity to serving as a leader in recognized student organizations that allow him to build his engineering skills. With financial aid from the Ndamukong Suh Engineering Scholarship, Tharp has flourished in Nebraska Engineering. Keep reading to learn more about his experience and watch a month in his life.
Talk about why you applied to Nebraska. Was there a specific moment, or someone or something that pushed you to apply?
Originally, I was not looking at Nebraska, but then I got the opportunity to apply for the Ndamukong Suh Engineering Scholarship. My high school counselor is the one who pushed me the most to explore all my options and opened my eyes to consider this school. My mom and I met with the Suhs before committing to the offer. After our meeting, I was sold on the idea of going to UNL and began planning my campus visit.
Where does your passion for engineering come from?
Growing up, I was constantly exposed to Apple products and new technology through my dad. I also used to play video games a lot. I rarely play now, but growing up, I wanted to be a game designer. My mom even signed me up for kids’ summer courses at a community college, where we learned to build things and even code things into Minecraft. I don’t remember knowing many engineers growing up, but when I got to high school, my physics teacher encouraged me to look into engineering when I began applying to universities. I leaned towards electrical engineering because of the field’s versatility and my interest in electronics growing up.
Tell us about how you’ve gotten involved on campus and how it’s shaped your college experience.
I tried to be involved in everything during my first year on campus. I joined Afrikan Peoples Union, Define American and Engineers without Borders. I also became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Due to COVID, a lot of my involvement was restricted, and I had to take a step back from a lot to focus on my grades. I did student outreach and programming at the Center for Civic Engagement before the department merged. After returning from studying abroad, I got involved on campus again. I ran for office in the National Society of Black Engineers. I became treasurer and became the acting president of my fraternity. I also worked for Dr. Baack as a teacher assistant for the leadership courses that she lectures. During my last semester, I was inducted into the Order of Omega honor society.
These organizations have taught me a lot about teaching and running businesses and introduced me to many incredible people at UNL. The connections I’ve made through the programs and organizations have been the most rewarding part of my college experience.
Tell us about the hands-on experiences you’ve gained during your time as a Husker student.
As a Husker student, I gained a wealth of hands-on experiences that helped me develop my technical skills and practical knowledge, despite facing some challenges.
One of the challenges was the age of some of the school’s lab equipment. However, I made the most of the resources available to me. I learned how to work with the tools and equipment that were available. Despite the age of the equipment, the laboratory courses were an integral part of my electrical engineering curriculum. They allowed me to apply theoretical concepts I learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to complete some labs virtually. Although it was not the same as a physical lab experience, I was able to learn and apply the concepts through simulations and online experiments. I worked collaboratively with my peers and professors as best as we could on Zoom.
During the past two summers, I had the opportunity to complete internships at Amazon doing hardware development on their core robotics team. These internships gave me hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. They helped me apply the theoretical concepts I learned in the classroom to real-world projects. I worked on designing and testing electrical boards, developing software, and contributing to developing new products. The experience I gained during these internships was invaluable and has helped me prepare for a successful career in electrical engineering and computer science.
Overall, despite some challenges I faced as a Husker student, the hands-on experiences I gained have prepared me well for my future career in hardware development. I am grateful for the opportunities, skills and knowledge I have gained throughout my academic journey.
You studied abroad in Spain for a semester your junior year. How did your experience abroad impact you?
Studying abroad in Spain during my junior year was an incredible experience. I immersed myself in a new culture and language, which really broadened my perspective and helped me explore myself more. It was a unique opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and experience new ways of life.
Additionally, studying abroad provided me with the opportunity to learn in a different academic environment, which challenged me in new ways and helped me develop my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I also had the opportunity to take Spanish courses for engineering degree credit that were not offered at UNL.
Furthermore, studying abroad allowed me to meet and connect with people from all over the world. During my time, I met my awesome group of friends in the same program as me and tons of European students studying in Spain like I was. This helped me develop my interpersonal skills and build a global network of contacts. Being abroad was also just extremely fun. There were always amazing things to do with my time. Traveling around Europe was cheap and easy.
Overall, studying abroad was an incredible experience that caused an immeasurable amount of growth in myself, which will serve me well in my future career and personal life.
Who or what inspires you?
Many people and things have inspired me throughout my academic journey. First, my parents were a source of inspiration to be successful. Watching my family provide for me and invest in me made me want to succeed in all my educational endeavors. My inspiration at UNL comes from professors and friends I’ve met. I have made some of my strongest connections during my years here, and they have motivated me to strive for excellence in my academic pursuits. I am also inspired by the engineering accomplishments of my EE professors and the professional engineers I have met. It inspires me to remain creative and always be ready to learn more.
Furthermore, I am inspired by my friends and peers who have also worked hard to achieve their academic and career goals. Despite our challenges and setbacks, their drive and determination to succeed always inspired me to work harder and finish my studies.
What’s something you love about being a Husker that can’t be captured on camera?
I saw a Husker varsity jacket in a vintage store in Madrid, Spain. Seeing the Nebraska N on the jacket when I was far away from friends and family reminded me of the community I built here in Lincoln, Nebraska, and how much of a privilege it is to call myself a Husker amongst impressive peers and alums.
Is there someone who has impacted your time at Nebraska?
Someone who really made an impact on me the past few years has been our NPHC council adviser, Quinna Hogan. She began working shortly after I became a member of Phi Beta Sigma, and she has taught me a lot about running an organization. The behind-the-scenes work that she does and energy she pours into our Greek community has kept me invested in our UNL community as well. She inspired me to work harder and continue to leave my mark on campus through my involvements.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a Husker on making the most of your time as a Husker?
Take advantage of the career center and other career-related resources on campus. Attend career fairs, workshops and networking events to connect with professionals in your field of interest.
Additionally, get involved in student organizations and clubs that interest you. For people with marginalized identities, RSOs are a great way to be more involved with others with similar experiences as you, and an outlet to advocate on behalf of your community. This is a great way to meet like-minded individuals, develop leadership and teamwork skills and engage in activities that complement your academic pursuits.
Finally, make the most of your time on campus by building relationships with your professors, peers and other members of the university community. They can offer valuable guidance, support and networking opportunities that can help you achieve your academic and career goals.
Remember, your time as a Husker is a valuable and unique experience, so make the most of it by exploring all the opportunities that are available to you.
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
In my lifetime, I want to inspire the youth in lower-income communities. A lot of kids do not have the same opportunities I had growing up to take extracurricular classes that fueled my passion for engineering. I want to show them it’s possible for kids like them and that there’s so much that you can do in engineering.
What has made your time as a Husker remarkable?
As an out-of-state student, my biggest fear was going to a school where I didn’t know anyone. The Husker traditions, events and communities on campus made me feel at home and introduced me to so many amazing people. The lifelong relationships I’ve gained, and the memories made from my time at Nebraska are what I will cherish forever.