Student Profile - Elizabeth Wu
Industrial engineering major Elizabeth Wu embraces challenges
Like most high school seniors planning to attend college, Elizabeth Wu was faced with important decisions concerning her future. Upon her graduation in 2010, the Lubbock native was considering her options and hadn’t decided on a school – that is, until her mother showed Wu some interesting information in The Washington Post.
“My mom actually sent me an article that said Lamar University students are more well-rounded when they graduate than students who went to Harvard University,” said Wu.
Based on the results of an educational study, the nationally syndicated column advised students to “Forget Harvard and think Lamar.” The column by the Post’s Kathleen Parker recognized Lamar’s “commitment to core subjects deemed essential to a well-rounded, competitive education.”
“That actually kind of cemented my final decision for me,” said Wu, a junior majoring in industrial engineering. “Many people think of Harvard as the pinnacle of education and success, but I’ve always felt that you shouldn’t base everything on a name. Here at Lamar, they don’t just push you in a certain direction; they kind of challenge you from several different aspects.”
Lamar’s challenging curriculum offered just the sort of mental cross-training Wu wanted from her education. A proficient violinist since the age of four, fluent in Mandarin and a brown belt in San Shou martial arts, Wu was excited to begin her transition into university life – although she wasn’t overly excited about the major she had settled on.
“Since we were young, my dad always pushed for us to consider engineering, and my twin sister and I would always rebel and tell him no way. Plus, I never really liked math,” said Wu. Not wanting to enter college without a chosen direction, she reconsidered her father’s suggestion.
“I figured maybe, if I pursued some kind of engineering, I’d start to like it. So I chose industrial engineering because, I’m not going to lie, it didn’t require as much math,” said Wu.
She took calculus during her first semester. The method used by her professor, Mohsen Maesumi, of having students show up for class prepared to do board work had Wu nervous.
“I worried about how humiliating it would be if I got up to the board and did something wrong,” she said. “I remember this one day I was up at the board working on a problem, and I was trying to figure out what to do next, and something clicked. That moment when I figured out the problem, math became much more interesting. Now I love the idea of looking at something I can’t solve from different angles and then finally solving it.”
Through her new interest in problem solving, Wu discovered her excitement for industrial engineering at Lamar.
“I’ve learned that it takes a lot of flexibility, drive, curiosity and analytical skills to be an industrial engineer. It takes a lot of patience and desire to get to the root of a problem, and that's essentially what engineers are hired to do – solve problems. Lamar has been preparing me for these aspects of engineering; the classes I’m taking are really feeding my interest in problem solving, and my teachers leave enough room for me to explore within the subject area.”
For Wu, Lamar’s commitment to a well-rounded core curriculum has enhanced her success in industrial engineering.
“I remember there were a couple of weeks when I had tests in every single class for engineering, and I was just freaking out. It was a relief to go write a paper for American Literature or watch a dance critique for Dance Appreciation. Sometimes, that’s just what you need when you’re stumped with an engineering problem. It helps to walk away and learn about something different; you come back and things are a little clearer for you. I don’t think you leave college with much of a world view when you just get straight into your major. I enjoy being exposed to different concepts and ideas besides engineering.”
Wu is confident she was right to follow The Washington Post’s advice. In addition to her campus activity with organizations including Lamar Ambassadors and Engineers Without Borders, Wu was accepted for an industrial engineering intern position at ExxonMobil in Fairfax, Va., this summer.“Lamar is so good about giving opportunities to students,” Wu said. “The programs and the opportunities I’ve found here have really taken everything to the next level, and the quality of education is the best.”