Alyssa Norris is an Honors College student studying civil engineering. Alyssa grew up in North Pole, Alaska, where Santa Claus of the North Pole was her neighbor. During her first visit to WSU, she was inspired by the people she met and by the opportunities available to students. Alyssa was excited for the small, interdisciplinary classes of the Honors College as well as the hands-on learning she knew could be provided by Honors College and the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.
Alyssa had been interested in studying abroad for a while, but she wasn’t sure she would be able to because of financial constraints and the notoriously rigorous engineering curriculum. Then, during Alyssa’s first semester at WSU, she read about the Fulbright program in the Honors College weekly email. Alyssa contacted Dr. Robin Bond, the Honors College Assistant Dean and advisor who specializes in distinguished scholarships. Alyssa worked with Dr. Bond throughout the application process and was thrilled to receive a US-UK Fulbright Award for their Summer Institute. The summer following her first year at WSU, Alyssa had a fully funded experience at Bristol University in England to study the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how trade has shaped the modern world.
The following year, Alyssa heard about the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program, a six-week paid summer institute in Washington, DC. During the application process, she wanted the opinion of an engineering faculty member who could give a broad perspective of all that an engineer can do. Alyssa contacted Dr. M. Grant Norton, who was a professor in the college of engineering before becoming Dean of the Honors College. Dr. Norton worked with Alyssa on her application essays and mentored her regarding other opportunities for engineers and students like her. Alyssa was accepted as a Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow and took part in the paid program during the summer after her second year at WSU. Since then, Dr. Norton has continued to mentor Alyssa, helping her pursue opportunities that prepare her for the future.
Last summer, Alyssa was an intern for the US Department of Energy’s Minority Educational Institution Student Partnership Program. She was involved in helping the Energy Jobs Strategy Council at the Department of Energy Headquarters compose white papers with recommendations for rural and tribal energy. Alyssa also developed STEM-enrichment programs for underprivileged youth. This paid internship allowed her to travel across the United States and learn more about the energy problems that are facing the United States, and gave her opportunities to present at the White House.
Alyssa’s involvement doesn’t only take place during the summers, though. During her freshman year, Alyssa met Breana Bence, an Honors College student who was also studying engineering. Breana introduced Alyssa to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and now Alyssa is serving as SWE president, planning networking events and increasing retention of female students in engineering.
Alyssa has been interested in innovation and entrepreneurship from a young age, and furthered her interest through an elective entrepreneurship class in high school. While at WSU, Alyssa learned of the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute through helping one of the teams plan a TEDx event that was held at WSU. Once she was accepted into the competitive program, she wanted to make it even better. So she planned the first Harold Frank Networking event. She assisted in the group’s efforts to send out a monthly newsletter and begin teaching pop-up classes (classes that are a few hours a week and teach anyone – engineering student or not- how to use tools such as a soldering irons, laser cutters, or the 3D printer to make take-home items). Alyssa is this year’s president.
Outside of engineering, Alyssa serves in student government as an All-Campus Senator for the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU) and an Honors College Ambassador. Alyssa is also a member of the WSU Ethics Bowl team, which is coached by Honors Faculty Fellow Dr. Nathan Nicol. Their team successfully competed in the Northwest Regional competition and will go to the national competition in February.
Alyssa emphasizes the value of mentorship and encourages students to dream big and pursue their interests.
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