Although engineering tends to be a male-dominated field, Kayla Frazier has her sights set on changing that statistic. With the ink barely dry on her chemical engineering degree, the Riceboro, Georgia, native is heading to Texas to demonstrate how Tuskegee graduates — and women in engineering — get things done.
Staying in the ‘family business’
Growing up surrounded by engineers inspired Kayla from an early age. Her older brother and sister both attended Tuskegee University and graduated with engineering degrees. She recalled a specific opportunity at her older brother’s job when she participated in one of her first hands-on experience.
“Through them, I was exposed to what engineering was every time I visited them at their work sites, hung around their coworkers, and learned from them about the benefits of being an engineer,” she says.
When it came to selecting a major, Kayla combined two of her favorite interests — chemistry and engineering — for her college studies.
“In high school, I excelled and had a love for chemistry, which led me to realize I could pursue a career in chemical engineering,” Kayla explains, crediting her high school chemistry teacher with recognizing her potential and influencing her choice of her majors as well.
Maintaining the Tuskegee family tradition
Kayla was advised to apply for multiple colleges — but she knew her heart was set on attending Tuskegee. The fall semester of her senior year, she attended the university’s annual Fall Open House, which sealed the deal.
“Seeing the cheerleaders and Greeks perform, and meeting other prospective students, made it feel like home. I fell in love with the atmosphere,” Kayla recalls.
After graduating from high school, Kayla jumped right into the college life through the College of Engineering’s FASTREC program — an eight-week-long summer enrichment program for engineering majors that provided her a head start on adjusting to college life.
“Through FASTREC, I not only earned college credits before the school year started, but I met people who are still like family to me,” she says.
Since her first days on campus, Kayla hasn’t slowed down. Her well-rounded and involved student life experience included serving as a university cheerleader, a New Student Orientation leader, a Next Step Up tutor, and member of the Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Honor Society. During her senior year, she served as class vice president and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Classroom responsibilities and co-curricular activities required Kayla to rely on support from her family, friends and instructors, as well as her faith.
“Every semester was different — different courses and class loads — so it took me a while to get into the groove of balancing classes with my extracurricular activities each semester,” Kayla says.
Advocating for women in engineering
Kayla noted that interning the summer after her freshman year was not a typical student experience, but that hands-on opportunity with the Sabra Dipping Company opened doors for her later at the next academic year’s campus career fair.
“Chevron liked my resume and how involved I was, so they brought me on board my sophomore year by offering me an internship two summers in a row. That led to the full-time position I’ll have with Chevron after graduation,” Kayla explains.
“I’m excited about working in Houston and at Chevron — being that there are a lot of Tuskegee alumni who work in Houston. I’ve already started establishing relationships with many at Chevron,” she continues.
Kayla definitely sees herself as someone who will break barriers for people of color and women in engineering, and credits both her internships and new job as “giving me the motivation I need to succeed although I am a minority. I have a vision for women in engineering to eventually have more management roles calling the final shots.”
© 2019, Tuskegee University