GMiS Scholar of the Week
The Boeing Company Scholarship
Learning to go beyond our comfort zone is something each of us strives to do. For Alejandro Garcia it has meant the difference between achieving his full potential versus settling for second best. In recognition of exceling as a scholar and a leader, Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) presented Alejandro with the 2020 Boeing Scholarship during the 2020 GMiS Conference. Alejandro is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Material Science at Duke University. He graduated in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Georgia.
It is human nature to play it safe and do what comes easier versus pushing ourselves and risking failure. However, when we push ourselves beyond what is required of us, we often find that there is a higher sense of accomplishment. Alejandro has learned this valuable lesson through several personal experiences, including those of his parents.
When Alejandro was enrolled as a sophomore at University of Georgia, his father was laid off and his family experienced financial hardships. To overcome these difficulties, his father pursued a new job opportunity in London, and relocated to England along with Alejandro’s mother and younger brother. Taking such a significant risk was not new to Alejandro’s parents, as they had immigrated from Venezuela to the United States many years prior in hopes of providing opportunities for their future children. Seeing his parents be risk takers made Alejandro realize that “challenging yourself and leaving your comfort zone pays off and is necessary to thrive.”
I am challenging myself everyday and enjoying it. Noticing my skills developing and gaining responsibilities makes me feel accomplished and fulfilled.
Alejandro realized that he had to do likewise himself. He reflected on his high school experience where he had taken lesser challenging courses, thinking that getting good grades was more important. However, he was turned down by his first-choice university, having underestimated the value of challenging himself and the impact it would have on his future aspirations.
With this positive perspective in life, Alejandro has a new approach to his academics whereby he is “no longer working to get good grades, but instead to have good grades because I challenge myself and take on new learning opportunities.” Alejandro now takes non-required courses, attends seminars, and conducts extra research beyond what is required.
This outlook on life has led Alejandro to be more involved with his community. For example, he serves as a Teaching Assistant for a graduate management course – working hard to coach and guide students to become high-functioning leaders. Alejandro also leads a college-wide engineering project at Duke University to provide hands-on learning experiences in the modular dynamics/vibration area.
Alejandro’s enthusiasm for excelling in life and in helping others is admirable and is based on learning to step out of his comfort zone. As Alejandro shares, “I am challenging myself every day and enjoying it….and this makes me feel accomplished and fulfilled.” In appreciation for being a great role model and for encouraging us to step out of our comfort zone, GMiS is proud to recognize Alejandro as Scholar of the Week.