Student Profile: Colette Opsahl

Mechanical Engineering senior Colette Opsahl (’08) considered lots of other schools before choosing UConn.

High School: Westover School, Middlebury, CT

Reason for Coming to UConn:
“I had a scholarship to RPI. But I visited UConn with my parents and fell in love with the campus and the breadth of opportunities. Even at a big university, you can carve your niche. My high school was a small, top all-girls school, so I looked forward to the big-school atmosphere.”

Beyond Engineering:
“I spent six months, including the spring ’06 term, at the University of Limerick in Ireland. It took some work to get my coursework arranged. Dr. John Bennett served as a liaison with ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology) to ensure my courses were transferable from Limerick to UConn. European programs aren’t accredited in the same way that U.S. engineering programs are accredited, so this took some coordination. My study abroad experience was excellent.”

“I have been an Irish step dancer since I was 8 years old. My sister and I competed in the All-Ireland Step Dancing Championship and continued all through high school. I tore my ACL and had arthroscopic surgery that effectively ended my competitive step dancing but not my involvement: I’m a teacher and choreographer for the step dancing club on campus, which has about 15 members. I also play on a lot of intramural teams, and I’m a member of Phi Sigma Rho, the engineering women’s sorority. I’m a member of SWE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the UConn chapter of ASME. And I’m taking a class in floral art through the plant science department that I really enjoy.”

“Another activity I enjoy is the Husky Excursions program. I participated in a Husky Excursions visit to the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving break. We backpacked for a week and had a great time. We’ve also ice climbed in the White Mountains and canoed in the Everglades. Husky Excursions also oversees the rock climbing center, which I manage, and sponsors activities like the cardboard canoe race. Two-person teams are given corrugated cardboard, a roll of duct tape, two garbage bags and two paddles as materials for their canoe. Both team members have to sit in the cardboard canoe and race down the pool and back as quickly as possible without sinking. It’s a lot of fun.”

Career Plans:
Colette began a year-long internship at Hamilton Sundstrand over the summer working on the Joint Strike Fighter program. “I would like to stay with Hamilton Sundstrand. In fact, I’ll split my time next month between Hamilton Sundstrand and UConn. United Technologies [parent company] pays for its employees to pursue graduate studies and even offers the further incentive of awarding $10,000 in UTC stock when employees complete their graduate degree.”

Categories: ASME, Colette Opsahl, eFrontier News, Headline, Mechanical Engineering, Student Profile, women, Women in Engineering