Melissa Jacques: Volunteerism, Leadership Lauded

Melissa Jacques: Volunteerism Emerges from Bridge

Melissa, who hails from East Hartford and says she is a “proud Hornet Alumni,” is earning B.S. degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. She was chosen a 2008 Outstanding Senior Women of Academic Achievement Award recipient.

Why UConn?
“I was attracted to UConn by the Bridge Program. It is a Minority Engineering Summer Program for incoming freshman. I found this program to be very valuable. Bridge gives you a realistic picture of the workload and demands of the engineering curriculum and ways to help you manage your time. The people I met in Bridge helped me during my college years to grow. I had study buddies, exercise partners, friends to sit with and share fun times. I learned so much from their different cultures, backgrounds, ideas, and beliefs.”

Why Engineering?
“Both my parents were engineers and I admire both of them because they can fix anything. Whenever I had something to repair, I would bring it to my parents and they would fix it. I was very much intrigued by this.

During the 7th grade, my science and algebra teachers taught their respective subjects with such depth and understanding that it sparked my interest and I discovered that I enjoyed these subjects. They opened up my eyes to another world I never knew existed, and I was hooked. In addition, when I was in high school my biology teacher suggested that I join his FIRST Robotics team. On the RAGE Team 173, I began to learn all about robots. My task was to help quickly repair the robot after it had finished a challenge. My team went all the way to the National Championship Competition in Texas. We were so successful that we were awarded second place overall and brought home medals to our hometown. At the recognition dinner, I decided immediately that I was going to study engineering and learn more.”

Beyond Academics
“Ever since Bridge, I have been interested in giving back to the community. I decided to volunteer with Mr. McLaughlin [Kevin McLaughlin, Director of Engineering Diversity] at the Maria Sanchez Elementary School in Hartford. It was fun reaching out to the sixth graders. We made miniature solar cars, and the look in the students’ eyes was priceless.” She became involved in the Multiply Your Options program, a one-day workshop for 8th grade girls. Melissa has also volunteered yearly for the Pre-Engineering Program (PEP). “I have been teaching the 7th grade for three years. I have made my own curriculum where I show the students different experiments that include toothpick bridges, colligative properties of ice cream, simple machines, water bottle flashlights, and balloon rockets. I feel that programs like this and Maria Sanchez after school program are very important to students.”

Melissa has also been deeply involved in various leadership posts within the UConn chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). “I became fully involved with NSBE and held numerous positions, including UConn Chapter President and Regional Leadership Conference Planning Chairperson, New England Secretary, and UConn Academic Excellence Chairperson. In these positions, I was able to establish and host a number of outreach programs…including the Annual NSBE Campus-Wide Thanksgiving Food Drive. This year it will be in its 4th year; we usually collect $600+ in monetary donations, over a 1000 food items, organize them into decorated baskets, and personally deliver approximately 30+ baskets with frozen turkeys, diapers, eggs, pies, and the complete Thanksgiving dinner to underprivileged families in the greater Hartford area.”

Career Plans
“I plan to work in industry, possibly for Hamilton Sundstrand. Later, I will apply for graduate school and enjoy life!”

Categories: emagination, National Society of Black Engineers, Pre-Engineering Program, Volunteerism