One of the most essential takeaways for Shyla Hutchins, a current undergraduate mechanical engineering student at Tuskegee University, has been the value of perseverance. The Alexander City, Alabama, native says Tuskegee has provided her with valuable lessons and the best experiences through her role as first attendant of Miss Tuskegee’s Royal Court, as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and as a volunteer with other campus organizations and Macon County Schools.
For Hutchins, being prepared starts with setting — and then working toward — a goal. During her sophomore year of high school, she became familiar with Tuskegee University through a week-long Tuskegee Airmen camp in Atlanta.
“I had such a great experience, and I learned so much about what Tuskegee offered. I knew attending the university would be a perfect match for my skillset,” she said.
“I have a love for math and science, but I still wasn’t sure of what my major would be,” she continued. “However, with the help from my step-mother, an industrial engineer, I realized the importance and need for females in the engineering field. So, I figured I would do just that and pursue a mechanical engineering degree at Tuskegee.”
Hutchins added that her small-town roots also contributed to her desire to work in a STEM field.
“I was so accustomed to hearing that people were going off to school to become teachers, doctors and nurses, but I didn’t hear much about females in engineering, so I wanted to do something different,” she noted. “I wanted to inspire young black females to look into other careers other than just education and the medical field.”
“Tuskegee has given me all the skills I need to succeed –– my professors have provided me with ways to tackle problem-solving, since we all know that things won’t always go as planned. Tuskegee has taught me the importance of networking. It is not always about what you know, but who you know — and because of this I have gained much confidence,” she said.
Opportunities to Succeed
Hutchins says one of the most valuable lessons she’s learned since being at Mother Tuskegee is that she is inferior to no one.
“I am just as valuable as the person next to me,” she proclaimed. “I have the ability to do any and everything I want to do in life — my opportunities to succeed are limitless.”
Indeed, they are. This summer, she had a chance to intern with Fortune-500 company ExxonMobil as a member of the company’s Future Leaders Academy as a midstream operations engineering intern in the company’s Midland, Texas, facility.
“The opportunity to intern with ExxonMobil has been amazing,” Hutchins recalled. “I have met some great people, and this internship has taught me how important it is to adapt to and learn of new areas and new places. Each new area gives a new perspective on life. This experience was a big move for me, but it has taught me to never be nervous about trying out a new place or opportunity.”
Once her internship ends, Hutchins will present her latest projects to ExxonMobil and plans to interview for a full-time job with the company upon graduation.
In the Fall, Hutchins plans to uplift others and encourage her peers to purse the road to limitless success.
“I want people to see that in order to be successful, you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and learn to travel to different places,” she said.
For Hutchins, getting out of her comfort zone includes a recent study abroad trip to Haiti with Tuskegee’s Honors Program.
“That trip was such a humbling experience,” she recalled. “I was engulfed in the culture, and I cannot wait to return. My favorite part was visiting an orphanage –– the children there were so loving and grateful to receive the gifts we brought for them, which included books, clothing, school supplies and even a couple of laptops.”
Her closing advice to her peers? “The only person who can stop you from achieving your dream is you.”