Every graduate of the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has a story to tell.
There’s Tony Kim who set out to make his mark on the world early through volunteering and internships. While Anne Schneider had her nose-to-the-grind-stone as she balanced a heavy class load with full-time work.
And then there’s Michael Fernandez who traveled the world with the UH Honor’s College and gave his time to student and professional organizations.
Though from different backgrounds and each with their own unique stories, Friday all participated in a time-honored tradition—commencement. This spring, they rounded out 113 would-be baccalaureates and close to 100 graduate students that are anticipated to receive engineering degrees.
At the afternoon ceremony in Cullen Performance Hall, all became some of the newest university alumni as they walked the stage and were conferred degrees by Dean Joseph Tedesco.
It was a moment, Schneider could only describe as “really emotional” as her fiancé and parents, both engineers themselves, watched her receive her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, signaling the end to five years of hard work.
A Middleton native, Schneider paid her way through school with jobs waitressing and bartending. At one point, she juggled school with a night job at the Black Labrador with a yearlong internship at Enron.
“It was hard work; I’m not going to know what to do with myself now,” said Schneider, who admits she will finally have time to begin preparing for the arrival of her first child, due this summer, before possibly accepting an offer from the Navy to do nuclear power design in January.
Friday, Kim was among 19 undergraduates to finish magna cum laude. He wore the cords of six prestigious honor societies—including Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi.
The son of Korean immigrants, Kim is the second in his family to earn a college degree. A feat made possible through dozens of scholarships throughout his five years.
“What can I say, I’m living the American dream,” said Kim, who has accepted a job as an instrumentation engineer for BP America. He plans to travel to South Korea, visiting his home country for the first time, before starting with the company in August.
For Fernandez, who graduated summa cum laude from the mechanical engineering program, the Cullen College ceremony was only the first stop Friday. He also planned to attend the Honor’s College Senior Awards Banquet at the Houstonian Hotel later the same evening.
The 24-year-old plans to go on to study at Columbia University on their Presidential Distinguished Fellowship. There, he will pursue his master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a focus on medical robotics.
“It’s bittersweet,” he called graduation. “This place is like my family.”
Among 24 expected to receive their bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Drew Nolan had similar comments.
“It’s overwhelming, and it’s tough to leave,” said Nolen, whose father flew from Saudi Arabia to watch him walk the stage. “But being here gives me a good sense of accomplishment.”