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Engineering Interest Circles connect students and alumni

Jed Tan (left) standing outside in white shirt and tie; Timothy Crawford (right) working in an industrial setting in white hardhat and orange coveralls.

College of Engineering alumni and students shared networking tips, information on research positions and more through a new program launched last year to help NC State engineers make lasting connections.

The NC State Engineering Foundation and the College’s Engineer Your Experience (EYE) Program started Engineering Interest Circles (EICs) as a virtual program to connect students with alumni in their fields to learn more about what potential careers look like for them and to find mentors.

Each circle had eight to 11 people and included students and alumni who were just a few years out of NC State and those with more than 20 years of experience. They met for three one-hour virtual sessions, followed by a celebration with all participants.

Jed Tan, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, signed up for EICs to talk to alumni. Through his circle, he met an alumna who helped him get an undergraduate research position in a lab at NC State and made more connections on LinkedIn.

“One of the things I learned from the career fair is that networking is definitely really important,” he said. “These connections gave me a lot of insight into the path that I’m taking.”

Tan plans to continue participating in the EICs, which will eventually involve in-person meetings and video calls.

“These were very relaxed sessions, despite talking about serious topics,” Tan said. “It was more like a conversation between alumni and students.”

I told students to find what they’re passionate about and apply their skills and interests to their classes.” — Timothy Crawford

EICs have also proven valuable for alumni. Timothy Crawford, who graduated with degrees in electrical and computer engineering in 2016, said he enjoyed making connections with current students and learning from older alumni.

Crawford is a controls and automation commissioning engineer at BP in Houston and has been able to travel to several countries through his work, which was a goal of his when he was a student. He decided on his career path when he met an alumnus who spoke about his own experiences at a campus event.

“While at NC State, no matter what step or direction I was taking, I had someone advising me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had mentors in every capacity, and they’re all tied to NC State whether it was a professor, another student or alumni.”

Crawford said many students talked about how they knew they wanted to study engineering but weren’t sure what kind. He had initially wanted to major in mechanical engineering before realizing his mind was better suited for electrical engineering.

“I told students to find what they’re passionate about and apply their skills and interests to their classes,” he said. “Connecting the dots and relating it back to something I loved made it exciting.”

The College plans to offer EICs again in the spring. For more information or to get involved, contact Hannah Kunkel at heallen3@ncsu.edu.