Jess Chouteau Outstanding Senior Emma Hug had never planned on studying engineering in college, but her decision to major in mechanical engineering has led to some eye-opening internships and the prospect of an exciting career. She originally had considered medical school or profession in the health field, but her interests in math, science and problem solving aligned with mechanical engineering. “I didn’t expect to stick with it, but I thought it was worth a shot and I loved it,” Hug says.
Originally from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Hug preferred the small campus atmosphere that The University of Tulsa offers. She visited larger universities but found there was little opportunity to develop close relationships with professors. In addition to faculty, Hug discovered friendships among classmates, sorority sisters and peer groups. Encountering students across campus in activities such as University Ambassadors reinforced TU’s sense of community and helped her develop leadership and communication skills. “I’ve tried to get involved in a lot of areas, realizing that school is extremely important but I can also learn and gain so many other tools from different organizations,” she says.
Hug thrives in the company of classmates, fellow interns and faculty where lessons relate to real-world situations. “Learning is about more than solving chemical equations — it’s about tackling problems with answers that are effective but unique. You get to put your own personal touch on a solution,” she says.
Of all the areas in engineering, Hug was most interested in aerospace because of its fast-paced environment where new programs are always in demand. “Some of the classes I enjoyed were properties and materials and mechanics of materials, so I really liked applying that class experience to airplanes.”
Starting as early as her freshman year, she attended engineering career fairs on campus to learn about internship opportunities and get a good start on the application process. She set aside her nerves, shook a few hands and was granted the chance to interview. The summer after her sophomore year, she interned in Lockheed Martin’s missiles and fire control division. “It was really cool to see how a missile works,” Hug says. “It was amazing to learn missiles designed in the 80s have only been slightly tweaked since then and that the engineering was so sustainable that it could last that long.”
NORDAM offered more hands-on experience the following year when she worked as one of 21 interns assigned to individual departments. Presented with a challenge, it was up to Hug to take action. “I sought advice from several different engineers and businesspeople to learn how to go about solving the problems,” she says. “It was a great lesson for time management because it was very self-led.”
Hug’s internships, TU advisers and Tulsa connections helped boost her employment potential, and in January she accepted a position to work full time at NORDAM after graduation this spring. “Personally knowing people will always benefit you because they can vouch for your work ethic and all of the qualities that make you a good engineer and a good employee.”