College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Mechanical engineering graduate looks to make a difference with Fulbright award


McKinnon Reece knows engineers tend to make better-than-average salaries, but when the recent Clemson University graduate thinks about what he might be doing a decade from now, he has bigger things on his mind.

“Long term, I want to be able to make a difference in the world,” he said.

McKinnon Reece

Reece plans to head to Taiwan in January to teach English and STEM to elementary- and middle-school children with the help of a grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. He expects to remain abroad for about five or six months.

Reece graduated from Clemson in May with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. He said he has accepted a job with ABB and is training to be a field sales engineer at the company’s Greenville location.

While at Clemson, Reece served as president of the Chinese Language Club. He was also heavily involved in Engage Dominica, a program that gave students the opportunity to help rebuild the island nation after a devastating tropical storm.

Reece started learning Mandarin at Forsyth Country Day School near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he graduated in 2015. He decided to continue when he saw that Clemson offered the language as a minor.

“One reason I did it is because I love the Chinese language,” he said. “I’m really interested in it. I also realized the advantages of tacking on some skills that a lot of other mechanical engineers might not have.”

McKinnon Reece poses for a picture with students from the Soufrière Primary School in Dominica.
McKinnon Reece poses for a picture with students from the Soufrière Primary School in Dominica.

Reece’s goal is to become business proficient in Mandarin, fluent enough to carry on technical discussions about  engineering matters. 

“From there, I want to transition to a position in a company where I get to use my Mandarin as well as my engineering expertise during business trips to China or Taiwan,” he said.

Jennifer Ogle, civil engineering professor and faculty director of Engage Dominica, helped Reece secure the Fulbright grant, he said. So did Senior Lecturer Su-I Chen and Lecturer Ling Rao and Robyn Curtis, director of Clemson’s Office of Major Fellowships, Reece said.

As he looks ahead, Reece said that he is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and plans to adhere to any guidelines set by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Reece was among four students in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences to receive Fulbright grants this year. Two were mechanical engineering majors.

“The Fulbright Program is highly prestigious,” said Atul Kelkar, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson. “It has helped launch successful careers and build bridges between nations. I congratulate McKinnon on this well-deserved honor.”


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