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Convocation Speaker, Fall 2023

Madeleine Jennings

From Madeleine Jennings’ perspective, engineering is about much more than applying knowledge of science and technology to research and scholarly pursuits.

Engineering involves solving complex systemic problems through exacting analysis, calculation and experimentation, but that is a narrow view of the field, Jennings says.

“Engineering is as much a social science as it is a physical science. Once you realize engineering is a social skill, an art form and a creative medium, then you become free to do wildly creative, transformational and collectively beneficial things with it,” they say.

Jennings remembers being impressed by the caliber of research being done by the Fulton Schools engineering education systems and design faculty, and seeing the program’s potential to help fulfill their aspirations to go beyond strictly utilitarian aspects of engineering to also focus on its sociological impacts and issues.

“I joined the doctoral program to understand how engineering spaces act as sites in which processes of marginalization are reproduced, as well as ways to deconstruct those oppressive systems,” they say.

Jennings was encouraged by seeing the program’s applications to their varied interdisciplinary interests.

“I was able to study topics that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to explore,” they say.

Jennings also recalls feeling the decision to pursue a career as an educator was the right choice when they taught a class for the first time.

“’There’s something so fulfilling about seeing someone else have an ‘aha!’ moment because of something new they’ve learned,” they say.

Among the most important lessons Jennings says they have learned in advanced studies is that “creativity, innovation and a healthy dose of skepticism are essential for a world that you want to be involved in creating.”

Jennings also emphasizes that their experiences as a female queer student, teacher and researcher have convinced them that engineering can be enriched by diversity.

“As difficult as it is being marginalized in engineering, it is absolutely necessary to have marginalized voices present and represented,” they say. “It truly makes a difference to others who come after you, and it is not the sole responsibility of marginalized people to make change happen. It has to be a collective effort.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ Fall 2023 class here.

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