Thank You Kaitlyn

I applied to Ohio State as a pre-Industrial and Systems Engineering major. Three semesters later, I have yet to take a single class for my major. It is frustrating to spend so much time on math and physics homework problems when I can’t see their relevance to the work I will be doing in the future. On several occasions I have imagined a life where I am not an engineering student. I think about what I could do with more free time and different organizations or extra-curricular opportunities I could explore if I did not have so much homework each week. Sometimes I think about this while I am sitting in my room at my desk. On my desk you will find my computer, several textbooks, pens, water bottles, and a stack of papers waiting to be recycled until after finals. On the wall behind my computer I have pictures hanging up of my family, friends, and places I have visited. I also have several notes hanging up that have been written to me in the last few years. 

One of the letters is a thank-you note from my young neighbor Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is in sixth grade this year attending the same elementary school I grew up in. She loves math and coding and is interested in some day becoming an engineer. When I see Kaitlyn’s note, I am reminded of one of the reasons I love what I do. I want to be a role model to young women in STEM. I want them to know that they can do anything they put their mind to, and if I ever switched out I would no longer embody this possibility. 

This summer I attended several Diversity and Inclusion meetings with the HR team from my internship. I learned about the STEM pipeline and the drop-off of interest in STEM fields that begins for women and minority identities as early as kindergarten. I was fascinated by the statistics, and this semester joined a research team in the Department of Engineering Education to learn more about what this looks like at the college level. 

I keep Kaitlyn’s note where I can see it, and where I know I will often experience negative thoughts about my chosen academic path. It keeps me motivated and reminds me that the impact of earning this degree will not just be for my own life. I hope one day to attend Kaitlyn’s college graduation to see how far she has come, and see how STEM has evolved in the time since I have been a student as well.

Mount Leadership Pin

On the front of my backpack I have a small circular pin which I received during my induction into the Mount Leadership Society Scholars. This pin serves as a reminder of the Mount essentials, the founding principles and values that govern the group. The five Mount essentials are: Honor of Integrity, Being Prepared and Following Through, Creating and Nurturing Relationships, Valuing Individuals, and Willingness to Teach Others. I carry my backpack with me everywhere so the reminder to practice all of these actions is constant. It also gives me the opportunity to share with others the value of being in a scholars program. Through Mount I was able to move in early and begin to build my network and support system at OSU a week before classes started. We are dedicated to community leadership and service and actively participate in the campus community and beyond. I am proud to be a member of the Mount Leadership Society Scholars and I am glad through this pin I can carry this with me.

The Mountains

Baudin, Haiti – August 2017

In the summer following my high school graduation I traveled to Haiti as part of a medical mission trip. I signed up for the trip when I was planning to pursue a pre-med track during my undergraduate career. Before taking part in this trip I decided I no longer wanted to study medicine, but I was unsure what academic path I would take. Throughout the trip I struggled because I sometimes felt the work we were doing could potentially cause more harm than good. I was afraid we were contributing to a problem of dependence rather than encouraging the Haitians towards independence. I shared these concerns with my cousin one night while lying on the roof of an old school building and watching the stars. I told him I wanted to know the work I was doing while involved in mission trips would outlast mine time spent as a volunteer. He suggested I look into engineering, a STEM discipline where I could both manage and contribute to sustainability projects in the United States and abroad. We spent hours talking about his undergraduate career studying Mechanical Engineering, his favorite and least favorite classes, and how he hopes to use his degree in the future. I was encouraged by his advice and finally felt I had found a direction for my studies. Initially I signed up to go to Haiti because of my interest in medicine, but now the mountains will always remind me why I want to become an engineer.


Since coming to Ohio State, I have had many opportunities to further myself as a scholar and a life-long learner. I began at Ohio State last fall as a pre-Industrial and Systems Engineering major. This meant that throughout my first year I completed many pre-requisite courses in Math, Science, and the College of Engineering. I looked into my options, and in October of last year I applied to take part in a spring semester Engineering Service Learning Study Abroad. The trip traveled to Nueva Esperanza, Honduras, and worked with an orphanage I had traveled to twice before both with my church and on an independent volunteer assignment. 

The course was project-based and we split up into teams to solve various problems the orphanage was experiencing on property. My team worked to develop a small scale aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a sustainable method of raising both fish and vegetables in a system that promotes a symbiotic relationship between the two. The purpose of the system was to teach responsibility to some of the older children at the orphanage and to model a process that could potentially be built up in the future to generate a food source or income.

 To ensure project success we had to learn not only the technical specifications for the system, but the culture and climate where we were planning to implement it. This included creating manuals and instructions in Spanish and working with the caretakers to understand how the system could fit with the existing chores for the kids. We traveled over spring break and the kids helped us build all week. During this time we began to teach them about the system and its properties. They asked questions, which was a good indication to us they were invested in the system and interested in keeping it going. We left the project up and running in caring hands.

Following spring semester I began my duties as a co-chair to the Service Committee in Mount. In this position, with two other chairs, I am responsible for planning and organizing volunteering opportunities for the first year scholars. Over the summer we reached out to many organizations to begin ironing out the details, times and locations of all of our projects. This also included thinking of ways to help the first year students reflect on their service and instill in them a yearning to continue this engagement throughout their time as an undergraduate and beyond. 

I have also been able to engage with first year students this year in the College of Engineering through my new role as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) in the Fundamentals of Engineering sequence. In this course, first year engineering students are exposed to problem solving techniques, useful software, and various engineering disciplines through lecture and lab each week. As a UTA I am available in class and lab as a resource to students when they have questions. I also work with the instructional team to grade assignments and proctor exams throughout the semester. 

This year the College of Engineering kicked off an Inclusive Excellence Certificate program to promote diversity and inclusion within the college. I attended one of the official kick off events and wondered what this looked like in the fundamentals sequence. Specifically I wanted to know: how do gender and minority identities affect academic performance and student retention in the Fundamentals of Engineering 1181/1182 sequence? Through one of my instructional team members I was introduced to a professor in the Department of Engineering Education already conducting similar research. I scheduled time to meet, and will begin work with her team next week.

I began my time at Ohio State as a pre-Industrial and Systems Engineering major. Just last week I received notice that my application was approved and I have been accepted into the major. Next semester I am able to begin course work in the department and soon will choose my track within ISE. I have had so much opportunity at Ohio State so far and I cannot wait to see what doors are opened by this latest academic achievement.


[“Career” is where you can collect information about your experiences and skills that will apply to your future career.  Like your resume, this is information that will evolve over time and should be continually updated.  For more guidance on using your ePortfolio, including questions and prompts that will help you get started, please visit the Honors & Scholars ePortfolio course in Carmen. To get answers to specific questions, please email Delete these instructions and add your own post.]

About Me

When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, the president; I knew I would be in school for a long time. I never imagined I would one day grow up to say “Mom, I don’t want to go to college.”

My name is Lucy Sheppard and I am currently a freshman studying Industrial and Systems Engineering at The Ohio State University. My path in arriving here, however, was unlike that of many of my peers. I graduated from Worthington Kilbourne High School in May 2017, having attended Worthington City Schools since kindergarten. Following an internship with an OB/GYN at the end of senior year, I realized I was not setting myself up on the path towards a career that was right for me. This caused me to reevaluate my academic pursuits, and I decided to take a year off before beginning my college career.

During my year off I was able to experience and see many things that I never could from behind a desk in a classroom. I spent the fall working and volunteering around Columbus, and in January I left for a long-term mission trip in Honduras where I lived until mid-May. At the orphanage where I stayed, Montaña de Luz, my primary focus was education. As a volunteer in the classroom I assisted with daily lessons and planning, homework, and supporting Profe, the teacher, in whatever way I could. The language barrier forced me to be creative in my communication and problem solving while practicing and improving my Spanish.

When I decided to take a gap year, I had no idea how I was going to spend my time. I only knew for a variety of reasons I wasn’t ready to start college. I ended up on a journey of self-discovery, self-discipline, and self-awareness: a journey I know will only continue throughout my time at OSU and beyond.