Ready for liftoff: Engineering student has sights set on space

Contact: Cindy Wagner

Parker Jarrett (left) meets with friends in Floyd Hall.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sophomore Parker Jarrett says she was drawn to Western Michigan University’s engineering program because of its impressive reputation and the hands-on approach prevalent throughout the college.

“That resonated with me since I learn best by doing. When I first visited WMU, I got to see all of the different labs at the Parkview Campus and knew it was a good fit for me,” she says.

“I remember when my father told me how the NASA moon lander worked, and I realized I wanted to work on rockets,” she adds, remembering the time as a child when her life goals started to materialize. “Today, seeing everything that NASA and SpaceX are doing makes me excited for my future. I want to be a rocket scientist!"

Jarrett recognizes the pursuit to her dream is challenging, adding that her lifelong love for math and science, bolstered by supportive faculty, led her to choose engineering.

“Our professors know that students are making a huge transition to college life,” she says. “One thing I love about Western is how knowledgeable the professors are. They not only answer student questions—they encourage us to ask them.”

While Jarrett remains laser-focused on her goals, she also thrives on opportunities outside of coursework.

“Being an engineering student does not have to mean you have no social life or cannot hold a job,” she says. “I know students hear this a lot, but it stands true—time management really is key.”

And Jarrett works hard at managing her time.

She joined the Sunseeker Solar Car Team as soon as she came to WMU in fall 2020, embracing the opportunity to meet new friends and learn from more experienced students while challenging herself to learn by doing. 

“The veteran members are always willing to help, and it is a great way to get out of the classroom,” says Jarrett. “Involvement is flexible. I had a week or so where I needed to take a break and work on something else, and the team was very understanding. I hopped right back in like nothing happened and they brought me up to speed on the projects.”

True to form, she continued adding to her already busy life. She took a job during her second semester and challenged herself to take on more credit hours. Currently, she works as a lab assistant for the student projects lab at Floyd Hall, assisting students with projects and machining materials for professors.

“I have always been the type of person to stay super busy,” she says. “Diving into as much as I can without getting overwhelmed was my best decision; it keeps me busy and allows me to get as much of the college experience as possible. There is a way to balance everything.” 

Jarrett says finding time to relax is extremely important. “I manage to keep myself busy while also giving myself enough time to study and complete homework efficiently and effectively—and relax when I need to.”

She looks forward to getting a job in the engineering field after earning her bachelor’s degree and plans to earn a master's degree over time, while gaining experience in the field. After that, she plans to apply for a position at NASA and work toward a Ph.D.

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