Meet the Grads, Callyn Zeigler: Raising the bar
Callyn Zeigler, a Charleston native, was drawn to West Virginia University because of its unique traditions and reputation for having a strong sense of community. She grew up loving logic puzzles, problem solving and math, so she always assumed she would pursue a degree in science or math. However, engineering wasn’t on her radar until high school.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
“My freshman year of high school, I took my first computer science course taught by one of the most influential mentors I’ve ever had,” said Zeigler. “My teacher, Mrs. Donathan, pushed me to learn and become a leader in my AP computer science principles course. I loved it so much that I continued to take computer science courses all four years of high school.”
When it came time to choose a major at WVU, she knew she wanted to pursue computer science, but she also wanted to incorporate problem solving and hands on work with hardware. Ultimately, she decided to dual major in computer engineering and computer science at the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. As if that wasn’t enough, she also picked up a minor in math.
“I’ve found that the community at the Statler College is unlike anything I’ve experienced,” said Zeigler. “I have personal relationships with relationships with the deans of my department and the engineering school. These university leaders reach out to me personally to provide congratulations, hear about my courses, and just check in. These interpersonal relationships I’ve developed with the faculty have greatly impacted my experience. Knowing that I have a support system makes going after my goals much easier.”
Based on Zeigler’s Statler College experience, some may say she is over achiever. In her freshman year she was selected for the WVU Presidential Student Ambassador program. Only 10 students are selected per semester for the program which is designed to help students develop their communications skills and make a positive impact at WVU.
“Through this program I was able to work with President Gee to improve recruitment, retention and reinvigoration at WVU and I was able to significantly improve my public speaking skills by making educational videos about WVU resources such as Schedule Builder and the Carruth Center, as well as videos about my advice to incoming freshmen,’ said Zeigler. “I also attended the first and second annual Presidential Student Ambassador Summits at Blaney House, where I met with other ambassador cohorts as well as university officials. I even suggested creating a university-wide ambassador and mentor program to the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, who was enthralled by the idea.”
Participating in the Presidential Student Ambassador program lit a fire under Zeigler and encouraged her to become more involved on campus.
Throughout her college career she was a member of more than eight student organizations, including the WVU Society of Women Engineers, where was able to secure more than $15,000 in grant money as the Awards and Grants Chair of the organization, and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, an organization she was invited to join due to her exemplary performance as a student in the Statler College, ranking in the top 10 percent of her class.
For the last three years she also served as the computer science committee chair for SWE’s Girl’s STEM Day, an event that hosts over 200 girls in kindergarten through 5th grade and educates them about various engineering disciplines through hands-on activities. She also served as the community service chair, where she planned numerous events with the Appalachian Prison Book Project to provide educational resources for incarcerated men and women in Appalachia.
“I have also served as a SWE mentor for the past two years, giving advice and serving as a role model for freshmen engineering students,” said Ziegler. “Most recently, I was recognized as the Most Involved Member in our section in Spring 2022. As a member of the executive board as treasurer, I have gone above and beyond my responsibilities to facilitate and financially plan numerous events.”
Zeigler received many accolades during her tenure at the Statler College. In 2019, she was named a Neil S. Bucklew Scholar. This award is only granted to 20 students per year and covers all tuition costs for the recipients. She also received a Mountaineer of Distinction Award in Fall 2022. Out of nearly 100 applications, Zeigler was one of only five students who received the award for their academic achievements and extracurricular involvement. Most recently, she also received the Order of Augusta, the most prestigious West Virginia University student award.
Although she has many accolades to her name, Zeigler’s most memorable moment at the Statler College was getting to work with alumna Emily Calandrelli, a science communicator, former MIT engineer and the host and an executive producer of Xploration Outer Space and Netflix’s Emily's Wonder Lab.
“Through my involvement in the Statler Ambassador program, I was nominated to participate in an interview with Emily,” said Zeigler. “At the time she was in the process of expanding her film repertoire to a new series entitled ‘The Future is You.’ This series aimed to highlight women in aerospace and computer engineering fields, particularly in Appalachia, and emphasize the resources available locally. I was able to film an interview with her in the Lane Innovation Hub highlighting my experiences in engineering and my involvement in engineering outreach at WVU.”
The series aired on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Network and was shown in schools state-wide.
“In addition to filming an interview for a cause I’m very passionate about, engineering outreach, I also received mentorship from a successful female engineer that I look up to greatly,” said Zeigler. “She shared tips for success in a male dominated field and provided career advice that I found very insightful. It really helped me determine that I wanted to continue to pursue engineering outreach in WV, regardless of where I end up in the future.”
After graduation, Zeigler will relocate to Baltimore, Maryland to work as an associate software engineer for Northrop Grumman, a leading corporation in aerospace and defense technology.
“I’ll be participating in their Pathways Rotational Program meaning I will get to rotate between different jobs to narrow down my interests,” Zeigler. “The Statler College not only provided the necessary technical skills but provided me numerous resources to develop my soft skills that truly made me qualified for these positions.”
For students considering engineering as a major in the future, Zeigler’s advice is to dive right in.
“I know engineering has a reputation of being a super hard major and that engineering students don’t have time for anything except school, but don’t be scared,” said Zeigler. “While engineering is difficult, it’s also fun! You’ll get to learn very interesting concepts and work on cool projects. Additionally, all the engineers I know are involved in fun stuff outside of engineering, like sports or arts. It’s important to get involved outside of engineering coursework. The hands-on experiences from clubs or projects really enhance your engineering experience and truly make you understand why the concepts are so important.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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