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ODU Through Fresh(man) Eyes

Name: Maggie Atkinson

Major: Engineering – Mechanical

Hometown: Appomattox, VA


1. Why did you chose to come to ODU?

I really liked the location. I absolutely love the beach, and the campus is gorgeous. I also felt like this was the only engineering school that actually cared about women engineers. Especially after participating in the Early Engineering Advantage Program, I really felt like ODU genuinely cared about me as a female engineer. It’s just really nice to feel cared about in a field where it’s hard to feel welcome.


2. What kind of organizations and clubs are you involved in?

I’m involved in Intervarsity, which is a non-denominational Christian club. I’m also involved in the Society of Women Engineers, which is oddly named considering that nearly half of the membership is male. Finally, I’m involved in Engineering Ambassadors, which gives tours to potential engineering students looking at ODU. Through Engineering Ambassadors, I hope to inspire more women like me to become involved in engineering.


3. What is your favorite thing about ODU so far?

My favorite thing about ODU is probably the people. Everyone here is really nice, for the most part. We all kind of look out for each other, and I appreciate that. I thought college would be more “every person for themselves” but it really isn’t at ODU. We’re all here to support one another and help one another, and the people here really reflect that.


4. What has been the biggest adjustment to college life?

Living on my own has been pretty tough. I had thought that since I did my own laundry and did most of my own shopping that I was self-sufficient, but that definitely was not the case. I understand now why my mom told me that college would teach me how to be an adult. I thought I already was one, but now I feel more like an adult than ever.


5. How has the transition from Appomattox to Norfolk been?

It’s been rough but also nice. Norfolk is much larger than I’m used to. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Appomattox has less people than the freshman class here. However, it’s been great getting out. Appomattox has a very high conservative population, and as a liberal, it was really rough for me because I seemed to disagree with just about everyone I met. It was really hard to find anyone that shared my ideas about the world. However, at ODU, that isn’t the case. From what I’ve seen, a good portion of this campus is pretty moderate to liberal, which has been great, because I don’t feel constantly under attack every time I try to bring up any of my viewpoints.


6. Why did you choose engineering as a major?

I’ve always been a huge science and math nerd, but I first thought about engineering after reading an article about drones that were designed to help victims of natural disasters, specifically hurricanes. I had always wanted to help people with my career, and engineering felt like the best way to do that.


7. What has been the hardest challenge you’ve faced as a women in engineering?

I feel like doubt has been my greatest obstacle in engineering. For one, people always doubt my skills for some reason. I remember in high school, none of the boys in my engineering class trusted me for no clear reason. They wouldn’t let me help with any of the projects, they wouldn’t let me touch anything important, nothing. Also, I tend to doubt myself a lot. With so little representation of female engineers in modern media, as well as such a low percentage of actual female engineers, it’s really easy to feel like you don’t belong. However, I hope that if I keep pushing forward, maybe one day I can inspire women like me to become engineers and bridge the gender gap.


8. What do you think is the biggest misconception about engineering majors?

One of the biggest misconceptions about engineering majors is that we’re not creative. The whole concept of engineering is creativity, and people don’t seem to understand that. Engineering is all about coming up with new ideas and better solutions, and that requires creativity.


9. Is there anything you would change about ODU’s engineering program?

I wish they’d stop trying to stress us out. In one of my classes, we have speakers come talk to us, mostly from on-campus such as academic advising. So far, every single speaker talks about all these things that we need to do to be successful in life. As if being a freshman in college isn’t stressful enough, I have people telling me every week that I need to be applying for internships and thinking about the job I want after college now or else I’m not going to be as successful. Heck, I don’t even know what I’m going to eat for lunch after this class and you’re telling me I need to be planning 4-5 years in advance what I’m going to do with my life, when I don’t know how much I’m going to change in those years? It’s really stressful, and I don’t think they realize how stress-inducing it is.


10. What advice would you give to future Monarchs?

Be nice to the dining hall workers, try to get along with your roommate, and always do the extra problems your teacher tells you to do, even if they’re not being graded. Even though every student will tell you to do this, get involved. It’s a great way to make friends, and you usually get free things out of it.


Sami is currently a freshman studying communications at ODU. When she's not writing speeches for class or articles for HerCampus she can usually be found playing video games or binge-watching cooking shows on Hulu.
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