Name: Allisa Horst
University: Washington State University (Pullman) (WSU Pullman)
Major: Mechanical engineering
Class: Junior
High School: Olympic High School

Allisa’s path to engineering

It wasn’t until her sophomore year that Allisa chose mechanical engineering. As a freshman, she knew she had an interest in math and science, so she took a few introductory courses and joined on-campus clubs. It took some outside encouragement before she realized engineering could be in her future.

“I realized that I could be an engineer after my professor told me she didn’t even know how to fix a door handle before taking her first mechanical engineering class,” said Allisa. Having a female professor support and mentor her interests helped Allisa see herself in a field like engineering, which is still largely dominated by men.

Thanks to Skills that Shine (STS), the WSOS mentorship program, Allisa was also able to connect with an industry mentor, too. In her sophomore year she joined STS, which matches Scholars with mentors in similar industries to help Scholars prepare for the workforce. Allisa continues to maintain her relationship with her STS mentor, who works for Boeing, where she’s interning next summer. She credits landing her internship to help from her mentor and finding the opportunity at the WSU career fair.

Interning gave Allisa valuable career insights

Prior to landing the Boeing internship, Allisa had the opportunity to participate in a research program in Germany. Allisa was a research assistant for a graduate student through the DAAD/Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program, She found the opportunity through her honors program and a German professor. She recommends the program to WSU STEM students who are interested in interning abroad. Proficiency in the German language isn’t even necessary!

Her research included taking an impact test and recreating it online in a 3D model situation. She left the legacy of her work in a step-by-step process she wrote for the graduate student to follow. Creating the process was a valuable experience because it was the first time Allisa had independently worked on a real-world mechanical engineering project.

She now knows that she’s ready for a 40-hour work week. Not only that, but the experience guided her interest toward a career in aeronautics. She also realized that she didn’t enjoy the research aspect so she decided not to pursue a master’s degree.

Tips for for other Scholars

Allisa recommends all Scholars try out some on-campus clubs during their freshman year. Use those clubs to try out different fields and industries. A club provides real-world experience, which is something potential employers love to see on a resume.

Even if you don’t have prior work experience, Allisa recommends writing a resume freshman year. It’s easier to add to it as you go along rather than create one later.
Allisa is a big fan of campus career fairs. Sophomores can get some good experience from the fair, but she thinks upperclassman will benefit most from easy access to many career opportunities in one place.

She also recommends that Scholars join STS in their sophomore or junior year, and be open to learning through mentorship. She’s gained valuable tools as a mentee in STS. She’s also decided to become a mentor for underclassman on her own campus, which has been a great experience. Becoming a mentor helped Allisa give back and make an impact on someone else’s life.