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Graduation Stories

Collaborating through college

Catherine Chirichillo, industrial engineering ‘22, learned quickly as a student that teamwork is key to success in engineering.

Catherine Chirichillo

By Danielle Herman
Video by Allison DeBusk

Catherine Chirichillo realized by the end of her first year at NC State that her time in the College of Engineering (COE) would work out just fine.

The industrial engineering senior was enrolled that spring in Physics 205, an introductory course required for all COE students. While a challenging class, Chirichillo thinks it might have been her favorite class, an admittedly unpopular opinion. It drew her closer to her classmates and professor, Stephen Reynolds, as they worked through difficult concepts and problems together.

“I feel like that’s what engineering really is, attacking a challenge in collaboration with others,” she said. “Having that go well, and that good experience, at the end of my freshman year, really solidified that engineering will be fine and that (I) can do it.”

Originally from Manahawkin, New Jersey, Chirichillo chose NC State so she could move outside of her comfort zone. She was drawn to the university for its large engineering school, wanting to be a small fish in a big pond and learn all that she could from her professors and peers.

She jumped right in, joining organizations including Fusion Dance Crew, Social Innovation Fellows and the student ambassador program for the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). Through these she formed strong communities, while finding an important creative and physical outlet, helping make societal impacts and guiding younger students.

“Meeting so many people and getting involved with all the different things at NC State (has been great),” she said. “I think one of my favorite memories was from senior design day because it felt like a really great culmination of my time here. I just very much enjoyed my program and all of my classmates who are also my friends.”

Chirichillo wasn’t sure what kind of engineering she was interested in initially, but industrial engineering stood out for its versatility and its people. She added minors in statistics and environmental science and is looking forward to the different roles she can pursue. She credits another Dr. Reynolds on NC State’s campus, ISE’s Kanton Reynolds, with helping her navigate her courses and find a way to combine her industrial engineering background with environmental science.

As a Social Innovation Fellow, she was able to apply her passion for sustainability through several entrepreneurial projects, including one coming up with solutions to repurpose hemp waste. These experiences helped her secure her position as an environmental social governance (ESG) advisory associate at Malk Partners in San Diego.

“I’m very excited to do a more sustainable role but in a consulting environment,” she said. “Not only do I think that ties very well with a lot of principles of industrial engineering and making things efficient and improving them, but also … (it) touch(es) a lot of different areas, so (I’m) getting to see sustainability at a lot of different companies to see if there’s anything more specific that could interest me in the future.”

While Chirichillo is heading to the West Coast, she could see herself returning to Raleigh, which is where she learned to feel confident in herself and prepared to head out into the world.

“The College of Engineering at NC State really pushed me. You’re constantly supported by your peers and faculty, and then also pushed by those around you, really high-caliber students,” she said. “There’s lots to get involved in and strive to … and it helped me rise to where I am now.”