Cheyanne Harris

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How did you get started with the garden here on campus?

It’s actually really interesting. I got involved with an urban farming group in Oakland that did a lot of outreach regarding food justice and equity for low-income people. That was only last year but it was my first exposure to gardening. Through that, I learned gardening is therapeutic for me, so I got involved with the garden here mainly as a stress reliever. 

Do you plan on continuing to garden after college?

If anything, my engineering education has taught me the importance of making time to take care of myself and rest. I either want to have a small garden at my house or get involved with an urban farming group in Sacramento, so I’m hoping to stay involved that way.

What has been your favorite course at Pacific?

My engineering project management class. It is, unfortunately, the first course I’ve had where we actually talk about the social implications of the projects engineers work with. For me, that's something I’ve always been interested in. Looking at as somebody who’s in the engineering field we are catering to people who are in the public and we are serving needs. I think it is absolutely crucial that we consider the social implications of the projects that we work on. Even with engineering classes, there is so much emphasis on having a solid technical knowledge, but to me, that technical knowledge means nothing if you don’t understand how your projects are impacting people. I feel that my experience as an engineering student has been consistently trying to get this really solid technical knowledge while also getting out in the community and really learning from the people that I’ll be serving throughout my career.

What are your plans after graduation?

I accepted a job offer at NV5. It’s a consulting firm in Sacramento and they do a lot of water related projects, pipeline expansion...things of that nature, so I’m really excited about that.

Where did you do your co-op?

I did my co-op at the Central Contra Costa County Sanitation District in Martinez, CA. While I was there I worked on a lot of environmental outreach projects. So we did outreach to people in the community on what things to not put down your sink, what not to flush down your toilet- because it’s actually a huge pain for the local wastewater treatment plant to clean your mess out of the system. It was really cool because I got to learn more about a side of engineering that I didn’t really consider prior to doing my co-op.

Did that lead you into the position you’ll be starting in at NV5?

Not necessarily but I think when I was interviewing for the position it was really helpful to talk about my experience on co-op and how that really shaped me in my engineering education- so it definitely helped.

Are you excited to be closer to home now?

You know, I’ll be honest. It was not my intention to go back home after graduation. But I think it will be nice to be back and to see my city in a new way as a college graduate, an “adult." It’ll be nice to reconnect with family because during school I’ve just been focused on school.

Is there anything you would want prospective students to understand about you and your experience here?

I would say that I've been really intentional in crafting my own “Pacific Experience” whether it was studying engineering, minoring in a language, studying abroad, or doing a co-op. I would encourage other Pacific students and prospective students to really make their education their own in order to maximize the opportunities available.

Some students worry that general education course will cut into their time learning about their major. Did you experience that at all?

The time constraint is always very difficult, but for me as an engineering student, because so much of the curriculum is focused on technical knowledge, I’ve seen the general education courses as an opportunity to step outside of that. Even though there are some dislikes, I personally really enjoyed it because it added another layer to my education.

If you had advice for your freshman self, looking back at this Pacific experience you’ve crafted over the past four years, is there anything you wish you could’ve told yourself?

I would definitely tell my freshman self or any other freshman coming in to own who you are. As a black woman coming into engineering where there aren’t a lot of people who look like me, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t cut it in engineering and I didn’t necessarily feel like I belonged in that space. So for me, I would just encourage myself and other students that if this is what you’re passionate about— if this is what you want to do, you can do it. You have what it takes to succeed in that field, so I wouldn’t worry about “do I belong here” or “should I stay here” as much as I did when I was a freshman.

How have you developed that sense of belonging in the engineering program as a black woman?

To be honest I had to step out of engineering spaces to develop the sense that I actually do belong here. Whether it was being involved with Black Campus Ministries, a student group here on campus, Black Student Union, or being involved with other ethnic-related organizations. Those groups helped me feel like I had a space here at Pacific because there are so few people who look like me in the engineering program. In addition to developing a healthy sense of my ethnic identity, I’ve gotten support from professors and upperclassmen in the engineering program who were able to support me in different ways to keep me here.

Any final thoughts?

For me studying abroad made me realize how important it is to travel globally, so just to emphasize that students of all majors can and should study abroad. For me studying abroad really made me think about my career in a different way. There's a huge benefit from spending time in another country.

Japan was really fun and really tough. I lived with a family who didn’t speak English so it was really good language practice but for the day-to-day, “I’m having an issue with this” there really was no one to talk to about that. I feel like I developed a huge sense of independence there and I grew a lot.