Sierra designs its future through the Kiewit Scholars Program | Nebraska today
Felicity Sierra is forging her own path in engineering through the Kiewit Scholars program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Sierra, a freshman mechanical engineering student from Chicago, was one of 10 students chosen for the program’s inaugural cohort last fall. The program is a collaboration between the College of Engineering and Kiewit Corporation that aims to provide a select cohort of engineering students with leadership and career development opportunities throughout their undergraduate experience.
The program selects students based on their academic achievement and leadership, interest in the field of engineering, and dedication to the growth of themselves and others. Over 320 students applied for the first cohort and some students were invited for an interview before the 10 scholarship recipients were chosen.
Sierra said she applied because the program sent her a personal invitation and because she was looking for a college program that would provide her with the tools and scholarships to pursue her engineering dreams.
“Opening up (my acceptance) I ended up honestly crying because there were so many times I had interviews and potential big scholarships that I didn’t get,” Sierra said. “And so this one, it felt like I got it, it was literally going to change my life.”
In the program, Sierra completes a one-credit course each semester with fellow college students where they learn job skills, such as resume writing and job interviews, and engage with panels of Kiewit employees. . The company offers a tailor-made internship experience, in which she will work this summer at one of Kiewit’s national locations. She will also receive several other benefits, such as immersive learning trips, mentorship and industry connections, a full scholarship with additional financial support, and leadership development opportunities.
Sierra plans to use the program’s resources and internship opportunities to further explore her future in engineering. She said she’s always been a kinesthetic learner and wants to find the perfect career that balances her passions for engineering and technology in a hands-on environment. She is interested in working as a project manager with artificial intelligence because of the endless possibilities for innovation that the field offers.
Sierra landed on this specific career path, as well as her mechanical engineering major, due to her extensive exposure to engineering in the Kiewit program and her previous experiences in ROD. In high school, she was a member of an honors engineering program, vice-president of a ROD club and participated in the summer immersion program for Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in tech careers. In addition to these commitments, she took a plethora of courses in calculus, chemistry, coding and more, and applied herself thoroughly in each of them to learn what avenues in ROD She likes.
“It was a learning process to go from chemical engineering to computer science, from computer engineering to mechanical engineering now,” Sierra said. “Each experience has allowed me to know myself better.”
The program’s immersive experiences especially helped Sierra find her passion. She said visiting construction sites, such as the Riverfront area of Omaha, gave her the hands-on experience she was looking for. During visits like these, Sierra can also strengthen her relationships with some of Kiewit’s top executives, which she says has been invaluable.
“It was a great experience to be on a personal level with executives across the leadership chain,” Sierra said. “It’s kind of like talking to a mentor, and it’s been a big plus getting to know them better.”
In addition to gaining hands-on learning in the world of engineering, Sierra has strengthened her leadership skills through the program. She attended a leadership retreat last fall with her cohort and has since focused on openness and communication. These leadership trainings also inspired her to seek personal growth in addition to academic growth.
“Felicity is a people person,” said Bonnie Shuda, Director of Engineering Curriculum, “and her leadership qualities lie in providing space for others to share their stories and struggles as they go. need to be heard and lead them in an individualized way who can best support them.
Sierra said she feels especially called to succeed because none of her family members have been involved in engineering or had access to the educational opportunities she now has. But beyond her family, she finds most of her motivation in the desire to make her youth proud. It’s a lesson she’s learned since joining the program, that you have to want the best for yourself and work towards it every day.
“If you’re living up to someone else’s expectations, you’re not staying true to yourself,” Sierra said. “You don’t stick to your passion. And you should do something you love because you love it.
As her freshman year draws to a close, Sierra has her eyes on several opportunities for the next few years of college and beyond. She plans to become more involved with the university as a whole in registered student organizations, volunteer in the Lincoln community, and intern for Kiewit and maybe a few other companies.
“Now I kind of know what I want to do in the future,” Sierra said. “I feel prepared and more comforted by the fact that I have a plan and have a support system at Kiewit. I feel like I grew more as a person than as a student.