Kiarra Blake-Wade remembers she was a student in a STEM class at Haut Gap Middle School on Johns Island when she had a chance to participate in some hands-on activities that included building with toothpicks and marshmallows.
The class made a lasting impression. Kiarra is now a rising junior at Clemson University, where she has chosen mechanical engineering as her major and has distinguished herself as one of the newest Jansen Family Emerging Scholars.
She and three other Jansen Scholars are planning to organize a series of events aimed at bringing together mechanical engineering students so that the less-experienced students can learn from those further along in the major.
“I thought it was a good idea, trying to find more of a community with mechanical engineers,” Kiarra said. “We’re going to host events to attract people to us and create a community where people get to know each other.”
The Jansen Scholars will be working alongside Dr. Fadi Abdeljawad, the program’s faculty advisor, who is also an assistant professor of mechanical engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
The program launched in 2017 with the help of a generous donation from mechanical engineering alumnus Patrick Jansen and his wife, Carey.
Kiarra’s path to becoming a Jansen Scholar went through James Island Charter High School, where in 2020 she became the first Black valedictorian.
When it came time to pick a university, she chose Clemson for its reputation and size.
“It was one of my top schools because I heard it was the best engineering program in the state, and it’s a relatively small college town,” Kiarra said. “I was looking for something small.”
Since arriving at Clemson, she has joined WISE and has participated in its events aimed at connecting her with other students.
Kiarra is on track to graduate in 2024 and is thinking she would like to pursue a Master of Engineering in mechanical engineering following her undergraduate degree.
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