Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2021
For Laurel Wright, studying engineering has proven she is capable of achieving any goal she works toward. The field’s constant challenges and problem-solving opportunities reenergized her creativity and curiosity when she returned to ASU for post-baccalaureate studies.
When she first started college, Wright didn’t know what she wanted to do long term and ended up choosing a different path.
“It was a toss-up between engineering and health care,” Wright says. “After completing a bachelor’s degree in biological science and gaining experience in health care and hospitality roles, it finally became clear that I’d be happiest in a career more focused on problem-solving, creativity and math.”
Wright has found that the civil engineering program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU was the perfect fit for her interests and an excellent foundation for her newly clarified career goals. Her time in the Fulton Schools “was an enlightening experience that emphasized how big of a difference it makes when you discover what you’re passionate about,” she says.
Keith Hjelmstad, a President’s Professor of structural engineering, helped Wright solidify her choice of civil engineering.
“He encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and take on a new role as an undergraduate teaching assistant — something I never imagined myself doing,” Wright says. “He’s definitely an inspiration and his dedication to his students’ success has not gone unnoticed.”
Wright’s path to a civil engineering degree wasn’t always easy, but the obstacles — especially those in her engineering mechanics course — led to breakthrough moments.
“I struggled to make it through previous physics classes and was starting to worry I had chosen the wrong major once again, but something finally clicked,” she says. “The computing projects were a ton of work but forced me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics theory and how it fits into the bigger picture of civil engineering as a whole.”
Wright’s academic achievements earned her a four-year ASU New American University President’s Award scholarship and the 2020 Sharon D. Banks Memorial Scholarship awarded by WTS International’s Metro Phoenix Chapter to women earning undergraduate degrees in transportation-related fields.
During the past summer, Wright began working as a development services intern for planning and design consultant Kimley-Horn. After graduation, she will take a few weeks to travel and visit family and friends before beginning a full-time position with the firm.