Ambassador Post: How NC State Entrepreneurship Shaped My Academic & Professional Career

Original article by Katie Lawson at NC State Entrepreneurship

More than three years ago when considering schools, I looked for programs that valued creative problem solving, technological advancements, entrepreneurial thinking, and a strong engineering program with a collaborative and supportive student body and faculty. I found that program at a school designed tastefully with red brick and two mascots we know as Mr. and Mrs. Wolf. Based on my experiences, I can testify that NC State’s Think and Do mentality equips students with an entrepreneurial mindset in order to make a positive impact and be extraordinary. As a senior reflecting on her academic career and preparing to enter the workforce, I am reminded of the people, programs, and peers who helped me grow as a leader, engineer, and entrepreneur ready to tackle cutting-edge research to advance human-systems integration.

I can testify that NC State’s Think and Do mentality equips students with an entrepreneurial mindset in order to make a positive impact and be extraordinary.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked in the Brain-Computer Interface Lab and to have had the opportunity to represent NC State at the 2020 IISE Conference by presenting my research on neural synchrony between teachers and students. The main focus of my research was to discover which parts of the brain are activated and should be activated during the learning process in order to ensure teachers are effectively communicating with students. 

Our brains are made of countless neurons firing at different rates and in different sequences in order to collect, infer, register, and react to outside information. Today, when faced with an injury or illness in the brain, doctors typically prescribe medication to help the ‘failing system’ by altering the chemical balance. However, treatments are beginning to change as we know that brain cells are electrically and chemically communicating constantly to form, re-form, and strengthen connections, which offers the opportunity for a unique kind of healing. 

Similarly to how a doctor can promote the strengthening of connections in the brain through various treatments, the innovative and supportive atmosphere at NC State encourages the formation and strengthening of new connections with peers, professors, and mentors. The connections I have been blessed with this semester as a teaching assistant, scholarship recipient, and undergraduate researcher have helped shape my changing career goals and have highlighted new pathways to learn how I can find the perfect job – one that incorporates my entrepreneurial and industrial engineering background that drives advancements in the field of human-systems integration. The connections I continue to form make my education more personal to my goals, instead of a one-size-fits all ‘prescription’ that is equivalent to going through the motions of memorizing facts without application. 

Members of the ESAP at the Entrepreneurship Garage in fall 2020
Members of the ESAP at the Entrepreneurship Garage in fall 2020

Howard Stevenson’s definition of entrepreneurship, “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled,” focuses on being innovative in everything you are involved in. It’s having an entrepreneurial mindset that sees room for improvement everywhere and then drives you to think outside the box to create value – a hunger to improve and excel. As an Industrial Engineering undergraduate student with a love for problem solving and networking, I found my home in NC State Entrepreneurship. I am currently an entrepreneurship ambassador and an entrepreneurship scholar, where I am both surrounded by individuals who are interested in exploring the entrepreneurial mindset and sharing opportunities with other students at NC State. As president of the Entrepreneurship Ambassador Program, I have helped coordinate our team and kept us on track during the pandemic so we can keep increasing student involvement through marketing and organizing entrepreneurship initiatives on campus and entrepreneurship events. We are excited to be ranked #16 for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs in the country by Princeton Review for 2021; however, this is just the beginning of our growth in student involvement, entrepreneurship programs, and NC State college- entrepreneurship partnerships. 

Katie Lawson racing for the Pack Motorsports Baja Team
Katie Lawson racing for the Pack Motorsports Baja Team

I continue to seek opportunities that connect entrepreneurship and engineering principles outside the classroom in order to develop my business and soft skills for a career in innovation. I had the privilege of leading business development on Pack Motorsports Baja Team, where I was in charge of writing and pitching our sales presentation and fundraising. Each year Pack Motorsports designs fabricates, and races an off-road vehicle against other collegiate teams in international competitions. For the sales presentation, my team and I wrote, proposed and presented a business plan to a panel of judges/investors just like a startup company. In 2019 our sales pitch placed 6th out of 102 teams. During my academic career, it has been crucial to look for opportunities to apply my classroom knowledge in extracurriculars and to join teams where we live with the idea that the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf. 

Entrepreneurship is more than starting a company – it’s an entrepreneurial mindset found in individuals who are drawn towards opportunities to be innovative and create value.Being raised in an engineering and entrepreneurial family, I was taught that entrepreneurship is more than starting a company – it’s an entrepreneurial mindset found in individuals who are drawn towards opportunities to be innovative and create value. With my educational foundation from NC State, I aim to be a leader within the field of neurological and human-systems integration research – exploring applications like effective education/communication by creating and optimizing systems to improve others’ quality of life and how easily they can do their job. My desire to work with people and improve their quality of life motivates me to pursue these challenging research projects and to develop innovative solutions that can be implemented for a positive impact. My career goals wouldn’t be obtainable without the support from my biggest fans, supportive professors, and generous philanthropy from the NC State community that make it possible to live the entrepreneurial dream – creating value everywhere you are placed. 

Thank you to this exceptional university  – may we all be challenged to live up to the motto: Think and Do the Extraordinary. 

Go Pack!