Newsletter Spotlights

2017-2018 Newsletter Spotlights


Student Spotlight – Josie Stawinoga

Industrial Engineering


As an engineering undeclared student, Josie felt very confused and lost at the beginning of her freshman year. “What helped me work through it were the ELAs in my ENG 100 class. Their guidance and support helped me to find my community within this large university and a major that I now love.” Now Josie is helping other freshman like her by working as an ELA for ENG 100, and it has been the highlight of her junior year. Seeing her student grow and feel more comfortable at the University was very rewarding, and she is excited to see all they accomplish in the future. 

As an Engineering Undeclared student Josie had the opportunity to take 2 semesters worth of classes to explore all of the engineering majors available at the University of Illinois. What drew her to Industrial Engineering was the combination of human factors with engineering concepts. “It is always really interesting when we are able to break down seemingly complex human issues into mathematical problems, and find a solution.” Her dream job would be working within the healthcare industry helping to improve processes and products so people using healthcare services are focused on getting better instead of the formalities that come along with seeking medical help.

Alumna Spotlight – Supriya Hobbs

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (B.S. ’14)

Read about Supriya’s story in the vignette written by Taylor Tucker.


Student Spotlight – Shannon Strum

Computer Science


Growing up Shannon developed a love for knowledge and math from her Dad, a software engineer, but it wasn’t until taking her first Computer Science class in high school that she really fell in love with coding. Now in college Shannon has delved into these passions through serving as the president of Women in Computer Science, developing projects on Tech Team in SWE, mentoring other women students through Lean-In, and more! Additionally, Shannon utilized the things she learns in class through working as a student consultant for the Security & Privacy office on campus. She says, “I love working there because the people are so nice and supportive, and the work is really interesting!” During this past summer Shannon worked for Bank of America in their Global Information Security division. During this internship, she and the other interns competed in teams to see who could create the best product for the insider threat team in the company. Shannon told us that this was her favorite part of the whole summer because she learned a lot and her team won second place.

To her fellow students Shannon says, “Believe in yourself, and never let failure stop you. I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for [Computer Science], but through the help of mentors and friends I found at UIUC, I’ve learned that anything (including CS!) is possible with dedication.”

Alumna Spotlight – Val Laguna

Mechanical Engineering (BS ’13) 

Read about Val’s story in this article published by the Mechanical Science and Engineering Department.


Student Spotlight  – Jackie Letzter

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


Jackie has been involved with WIE since her sophomore year, and often volunteered to speak to prospective and incoming women students about life at Illinois. She now works with WIE as a teaching assistant in ENG 198, a freshman women in engineering leadership and professional skill development course. Jackie also works as the Head ELA in ENG 100, the introductory freshman course in engineering.
Jackie has been involved in the Society of Women Engineers since her freshman year. This year, Jackie serves SWE as the recruitment director, and is very excited to get to know new SWE members at the many events and workshops that it has to offer. As recruitment director, she serves as an active member of the SWE officer board, and works with the recruitment committee to plan and execute events like Little Sisters’ Weekend, International Taste of SWE, and the Back-to-school Cookout. Jackie also involves herself in the University of Illinois Black Chorus in her free time, where she sings Alto II.
Jackie hopes to get a job in manufacturing as a process engineer or project engineer when she graduates in May.

Alumna Spotlight – Ann Witmer

Civil and Environmental Engineering (BS ’02, MS ’16)

Currently Ann works as an instructor for the University of Illinois and the faculty advisor for UIUC chapter Engineers Without Borders, but her life’s passion wasn’t always International engineering design. During her college years, Ann first studied Journalism and Art History. After graduating in 1982, she then began to work for newspapers, and continued to work in that field for more than a decade. It was because she was leapt at to opportunities that were presented to her, and always kept an open mind that she was able to find the career she truly loves, teaching.

Her favorite memories from her time on campus are: “Toting around my young children and napping with them in the Union between classes [and] learning from classmates 20 years my junior about hangover remedies.” To an outsider, memories like these may seem insignificant, but Ann notes, “Everything, from motherhood to newspapering to cooking to studying fluid dynamics, has come in handy in making me what I am now. Any experience you have, good or bad, happy or painful, success or failure, will be useful if you use it as an opportunity to better understand the world.”

To students Ann says “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to succeed. Find your vision and pursue it, but not at the cost of your happiness or health.” Becuase of how influential her time working in developing countries on engineering problems, she also emphasizes, “Academic training is just that — academic training. Real life has to be experienced to be learned, and the workplace is a very different place than the classroom.”


Student Spotlight – Alyssa Licudine

Electrical Engineering


Alyssa is one of our BioEngineering freshman that our office had the opportunity to meet this summer during an event we had with the IEFX (Illinois Engineering First Year Experience) Summer Scholars, a program that give incoming freshman the opportunity to come to campus the summer before their freshman year to take classes and get acclimated. During her time in this program she and the other student would attend fun activities to teach them how to be a successful college student. Her favorite activity was learning about stress management by making Orbeez Stress Balls because the silliness of the using goo helped her to really bond with the other girls in her dorm and her amazing Resident Advisors. She began working in one of our research labs on campus focusing in Neurophotonics at the Biophotonics Imaging. She says, “My family’s history with Alzheimer’s has ignited my passion for contributing to the advancement of research in neurodegenerative diseases. Knowing how progress in neurophotonics will enable us to better identify and analyze such diseases in our brains, I leapt at the chance to get involved in the Biophotonics Imaging Lab at Beckman Institute.” Needless to say it was an eventful summer for Alyssa, and she is excited to continue to work in the lab, and meet other amazing student this fall.

Alumni Spotlight – Amy Mueller

Mechanical Engineering (BS ’11)

As a Project Engineer at McDonald’s, Amy helps to “develop the mechanical and plumbing standards for all new McDonald’s restaurants built in the US. This included training the Architecture and Engineering firms that design McDonald’s restaurants, researching new more efficient equipment, and supporting project managers and the field teams on new restaurants built in their regions.” This interest in industry sprouted from her positive internship experiences. It was during this time she realized how different the working world was from college. She notes that the gender gap became more noticeable as she worked on teams with upper level engineers where men were clearly the majority, but she used this time to find new styles of communication that worked well in that environment.

During her time, here at the university Amy was heavily involved in RSOs like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and it was the community of friends she made through these organizations and her classes that really shaped her college experience. She notes, “While U of I has a lot of students, I often found myself around the same circles of people. It was almost a Cheers fell, ‘where everybody knows your name.'”

To current students, Amy recommends utilizing this time to prepare for life as a professional engineer. More specifically, she suggests taking the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam which is one of the first steps to becoming a licensed engineer. Because all students are in the habit of studying for exams and review all the material needed for it in the classes they currently take, she feels they will have a much easier time studying for it now. Plus it is a great resume booster.