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Engineering Graduate Reflects on Impact of Private Support

The following excerpt was taken from the NCSU Giving Web site.  Please click here to read the entire article.

As a high school student in Columbus County, Shiana Thomas hoped to become a doctor so that she could help people. But one day, her physics professor asked whether she had considered a career as an engineer.

“My answer was no, because engineering was scary,” she said.

Less scary than she imagined. A few twists and turns later, inspired by that teacher’s encouragement to explore possibilities, Thomas graduated cum laude from NC State in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management. Almost immediately, she began work as an office engineer in Greenville for Rodgers Builders Inc. Scholarships made her journey to helping people – in a different way – possible.

“All of my years at NC State were completely paid for by scholarships and financial-aid grants,” Thomas said. “That has been a great blessing.

“I received scholarships from the College of Engineering (COE) and a few Native American scholarships,” she added. “I was pretty surprised and honored when I found out about the COE scholarships. Knowing that someone wanted to invest in me made me work harder.”

Shiana Thomas
Shiana Thomas

Finding Her Path

Thomas, who earned two associate degrees alongside her 2012 high school diploma at Southeastern Early College High School, on the campus of Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, planned as a teenager to attend UNC-Chapel Hill in preparation for medical school. But although family members pledged some support, financing higher education was going to be a challenge. She began aiming instead toward a small private college that offered a full scholarship.

She continued to consider that engineering suggestion, though. Conversation in the checkout line of the grocery store where she worked part-time provided more food for thought. A customer chatted about his interesting work in ergonomics and the design of spaces. At the last minute, Thomas applied to NC State in the sciences.

“I had never intended to go to NC State, but I decided to challenge myself,” she said. “Man, was it one of the best choices I’ve made.”

She ended up entering the university in engineering. Eventually, after working in an engineering research lab the summer after she arrived on campus and later as an administrative assistant to a professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, she chose her field.

“I think civil engineering gives you more opportunities to help people,” Thomas said. “That’s pretty cool — to help people and communities get buildings and resources that they need.”

She also appreciated the construction management curriculum’s grounding in broad real-world skills such as accounting, scheduling, planning and structural design.