CREATE Scholar Shannon Keegan

A Q & A with one of the scholars from the NSF-funded "Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers" program. Shannon Keegan is a member of the first cohort of CREATE program scholars.

CREATE scholar Shannon Keegan

Shannon Keegan on choosing engineering: "The more I thought about it the more perfect engineering seemed for me, I got to focus on math and science, but at the same time take that knowledge and add a little creativity to be able to physically build whatever my imagination dreamed up."

CREATE Scholar Shannon Keegan

A Q & A with one of the scholars from the NSF-funded "Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers" program. Shannon Keegan is a member of the first cohort of CREATE program scholars.

Shannon Keegan on choosing engineering: "The more I thought about it the more perfect engineering seemed for me, I got to focus on math and science, but at the same time take that knowledge and add a little creativity to be able to physically build whatever my imagination dreamed up."

CREATE scholar Shannon Keegan

Shannon Keegan on choosing engineering: "The more I thought about it the more perfect engineering seemed for me, I got to focus on math and science, but at the same time take that knowledge and add a little creativity to be able to physically build whatever my imagination dreamed up."

Hometown: Murrieta, Calif.
Mechanical engineering major with minors in mathematics and unmanned autonomous systems (class of 2023)

What got you interested in engineering?

Honestly, I didn’t fully make the decision to go into Engineering until my senior year of high school. In trying to decide my major I talked about it with my parents and some of my favorite teachers and they all agreed I should go into a STEM major because of my love for Math and Science, but I also knew that I was a person that got bored easily and wouldn’t be able to do a desk job or solely focus on the theoretical. After searching around a bit I settled on Engineering and realized it had been staring me in the face the whole time. I had always loved the “build it yourself” type of toys when I was little, magnetic shapes to make buildings, roller coaster kits, I even stole a programmable robot kit from my brother when he was too slow putting it together. The more I thought about it the more perfect engineering seemed for me, I got to focus on math and science, but at the same time take that knowledge and add a little creativity to be able to physically build whatever my imagination dreamed up. Engineering had everything I wanted.

What impact do you hope to have through your engineering career?

My career goals as of now are pretty vague as I haven’t fully made up my mind on what I want to do. Right now I’m really interested in robotics, hence the unmanned autonomous systems minor, so I would love to one day work on a design team to help create new uses for autonomous machines. For instance in agriculture, one could create a drone that could disperse pesticides or fertilize/water crops. Or in search and rescue drones could be vital in covering rough terrain efficiently and quickly. I want to one day be able to say that something I took part developing is out in the world helping people. So I guess in short the impact I hope to have in my career is to in some way shape or form improve people’s lives with new technology.

What does the CREATE program mean to you?

To me the CREATE program means more access to opportunities, information and support. First and foremost I have the create program to thank for the success I had during my first year, specifically in making new friends. I came to UNR not knowing a soul, but being grouped with CREATE students during E-Fit, and all of us living in the Engineering LLC the ball quickly got rolling for me to meet some of the most incredible people, and from there the group just continued to expand. I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well as I am if it wasn’t for the amazing friends I made during my first semester.

Besides friends CREATE to me also means additional resources and support. My faculty mentor, Dr. Vollstedt, has been so supportive and always willing to help and answer my questions. I even ended up being a PASS Leader (Peer assisted study session leader) for her ENGR 241 class. Thinking about my future has always been stressful as it is for many college students. Will I be able to find a job after graduation, or get into grad school, or even afford tuition and rent year after year? Knowing that I have an entire support system behind me who I can reach out to for talking about my goals, along with extra financial support greatly helps to relieve some of the stress.

In what ways has your peer mentor helped you?

I can’t express how much I love my peer mentor. Not only is Pedro my peer mentor he was also my group leader during E-Fit. He showed us shortcuts to get around campus, fun spots students like to hang out, and made college seem a lot less nerve wracking overall. It’s nice to have someone in your corner that’s gone through what you may be struggling with. Whether it’s for advice, questions, or general venting I know I can always reach out to Pedro and have his support.

What advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I’ve never been great at giving general advice as everyone is so unique and what works for me may be the exact opposite of what works for someone else. However there are some things that I would recommend to nearly everyone. First and foremost I highly encourage everyone to stay in the dorms at least for their first year. It’s such a unique and irreplaceable experience, a chance to meet lifetime friends, and truly makes you feel like you're a part of campus. The ability to wake up at 7:55 and an 8 am class, hanging out in the social lounges, and having people to reach out to for help in your classes.

The other piece of advice I can offer for engineering students is to find a balance in life that works for them. Some people may need to devote more time to their school work than others just to get the same results (I would know because I’m definitely one of those people), but it’s still important to make time for fun, family and friends. So maybe someone can do 50/50 between work and fun while someone else may be 60/40. Whatever your balance is it’s important to make time for both plus make some time for personal care (physically and mentally). Engineering can be grueling but also extremely rewarding if the different aspects of life are properly in balance.

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