Update May 2020: Sam is now our Director of Operations! In our Keeping Up With the SciCheers series on the blog, we interviewed her to get an update on all the amazing things she’s been doing since graduating from ASU.
Samantha cheers for the Arizona Cardinals when she’s not pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Arizona State University!
What got you interested in engineering?
Engineering Management is a very new degree to ASU. It is almost the same as Industrial Engineering; however, there are some extra business courses required to be taken through the business college. I knew engineering was a great degree and I had the skills to accomplish it, but I am more of a people person and really enjoy the business aspects of companies. When I talked to my advisor about these interests and how industrial engineering wasn’t quite right, she introduced me to this new degree and it seemed to marry my skills and interests perfectly.
What does it mean for you to be an engineer?
Engineers not only make things, but also make things better. For me, being an engineer means I have the opportunity to improve things in the world. Engineers have a different perspective on things; we problem solve differently than most. And that’s what makes us so valuable to the work force! I don’t have to be in an engineering or technology situation in order to use my engineering skills. It is a way of thinking that can be applied to absolutely anything! I hope in my career to make a difference and show people the versatility of engineers.
Favorite and/or most challenging courses you’ve taken so far to prepare for your degree? Why?
My most challenging courses have been for my focus area, mechanical engineering. Not necessarily because it is a harder discipline, but because I only take a handful of those courses, whereas the rest of the class takes four years’ worth. I have to play a lot of catch-up to keep up with my classmates. It is also very difficult since it is not the most interesting to me. I chose this focus because I wanted to understand the field of mechanical engineering, not practice it. So digging deep into those topics is not fun for me!
You have been interning as part of your degree program. What have you been learning? How are they helping you with your degree?
I have been fortunate enough to complete two internships during my college career; first at Microchip and then at Honeywell Aerospace. I mostly developed my project management skills as well as learn about each industry (semiconductor and aerospace/defense). I was even able to get Six Sigma Greenbelt certified while working at Honeywell. They taught me a lot about process improvement and ways to apply my skills to leading a team. Both companies extended offers for me to continue work during the school year, so I would say they were pretty successful!
You’re currently cheering for the Arizona Cardinals. How long have you cheered for them, and why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I have just finished my second season with the Cardinals. I never thought to try out until soon before my first audition. I danced competitively almost my whole life and then joined my high school pom team my senior year. When I was at tryouts for the ASU dance team as my last effort to continue dancing, I realized “What am I doing here? I could be a professional at this with the Cardinals!” And the next thing you know, I tried out for the Cardinals!
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering studies/career?
To be a professional cheerleader, you must be confident, poise, and understand you are representing an important brand at all times. These qualities have helped me in my career. When I walk into a company, I know exactly how to be professional and represent them in the best way possible. It’s more than just showing up in a nice suit; it’s the attitude that goes along with it and I think my employers can see that I only have their best interests at heart.
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a scientist. Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders ?
I love breaking down those stereotypes! In fact, I am even writing my honors thesis about perceptions of NFL Cheerleaders and the stereotypes that go along with them. When people say it is impossible for a cheerleader to do this, or no engineer has ever done that, it motivates me to prove them wrong. Anyone can be who they want to be and I am a strong believer in doing everything that makes you happy! For me, being and engineer AND a cheerleader is what makes me happy.
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Never! I love my degree because it is such a perfect balance of what I can do, and what I want to do. It is also broad enough to allow me to do anything I want in my career. I have been trained in so many different areas, I am confident I will succeed in whatever life has to throw me as I start working!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Don’t change a thing. I believe in living without regrets and I am happy with how things turned out. I never saw myself going to ASU, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be a part of the Arizona Cardinals and had opportunities of a lifetime. There are so many things in life I wanted to do growing up, but I am happy with my choice to pursue my professional cheerleading career while in school.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am a total kid at heart! I like to think of myself as a pretty mature person, but there are times when I just want to drop everything and vacation in Disney World! I still think the Disney Channel is great and fun, kid movies are perfect thing to lift your spirits.
What are your plans for the future?
After graduation, I will start my career as an engineer. After a little while of working in engineering, I have a goal to do something totally different. I want to use my engineering skills and apply them to a really fun industry like fashion or magazines. Who knows? I just might be the next president of Macy’s in charge of getting clothes from factory to shelf quicker.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want to be a Science Cheerleader because it is so important for people to understand what we do. Once people, especially young girls, see what we’ve accomplished, then they can start aiming higher and not be afraid to be an engineer or scientist. No one should hold back for fear of negative stereotypes. As long as you are great at what you do, you should be proud. I am an engineer and a cheerleader. There are so many brilliant and talented young girls in the world today. We need them to see that they can be smart and do what they love!