Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2023
Since her first visit to Arizona State University, Catherine Johnston has been struck by the university’s motto, “learn to thrive.”
“Everything I have done the past four years has been with a determination to live up to that motto,” says Johnston, who fell in love with the energy of ASU’s campus and felt it was a place she could grow personally and academically.
In the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Johnston pursued a degree in engineering management that enabled her to find the ideal mix of technical engineering skills, business skills and soft skills that she believed could provide many opportunities post-graduation.
“During my first internship, I realized that a huge part of industrial engineering and engineering management is about making workers’ lives and jobs easier,” she says. “There is such a human aspect to this major that I really fell in love with and I really enjoy connecting with workers.”
Johnston’s passion for helping others has been ingrained in her since childhood, when her father would often emphasize the importance of using her talents and skills to help people.
Her involvement on campus allowed her to continue using her talents for good and give back.
“I joined Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, the first semester of my freshman year, which was a really fantastic way to get hands-on experience and make a positive impact in the community,” Johnston says.
Through EPICS, Johnston worked on projects like Bridge2Africa and the NASA Psyche Mission, where she designed more effective wheelchairs and created engaging math and science materials for Arizona teachers.
Johnston was also the project manager of Project Koyash, where she worked to create a solar-powered air filtration system to combat pollution and provide safer air for communities in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
“I am really grateful for the opportunity to make an impact in my own community and even ones as far reaching as South Africa and Mongolia,” she says. “Being an engineer opens so many doors and it’s a really comforting feeling that I am grateful for.”
As an honors student in Barrett, The Honors College, Johnston also honed her creative skills while working on her thesis, a fiction novel.
“Engineers can get put into a very technical box, but we are also really artistic and creative people,” she notes. “Math and science simply serve as the foundation for creativity in engineering.”