Interviews by Ben Wright
Georgia Tech College of Engineering
They’re at every home football and basketball game, and countless other events, decked out in gold and white as they spread Georgia Tech pride. But the most common question they’re asked is if they actually go to Georgia Tech.
To set the record straight, yes, all 13 women on the Goldrush dance team are current Georgia Tech students, and they’re just as talented academically as they are athletically. Of the 13, nine are engineering majors, representing five schools and a range of intellectual interests – from Shelby, the aerospace major who has interned at NASA, to Heather, the team captain and President’s Undergraduate Research Award recipient.
We asked each of the engineering majors on the team about dancing with Goldrush, balancing hectic schedules, dealing with stereotypes, and passion for engineering. Here are some of their responses.
What is your favorite part of Goldrush?
The team is a great group of girls who are very close. It’s good to have that support group and I know I can rely on them. Having this family away from home has been really great. Then there’s the school spirit component – in high school I don’t think I even went to a football game, and then when I came here, being on the dance team forced me to go to all the football and basketball games. I’m really into it and I love it.
What do you like the most about your major?
I feel like I work with people who care about the major a lot. Being an IE I have met a lot of friends, and we study together, work together, and hang out together. I really like the major because not only is it very prestigious and the highest ranked program in the country, but it’s exciting to be among people who are so passionate about it. The professors really know what they are talking about and also care about what they are talking about.
Why did you choose Tech?
It’s such a great school and I really only applied to here and UGA, and I got accepted to both. And as much fun as I’m sure UGA would have been, Georgia Tech is such an incredible school, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go here.
What type of research have you been involved in?
I am working with Dr. Sven Behrens’ research group. I did that this whole past summer full-time with them and received the President’s Undergraduate Research Award for this semester, so I am working about 10 hours a week for them again. We are doing a project for BASF, basically tailoring double emulsions to encapsulate an active herbicide.
What is the biggest challenge of being on the dance team?
Time management. We practice between six and nine hours a week. On game days we have to be there anywhere between three and a half and four hours before the football game to do Yellow Jacket Alley, Campanile performance, stairs performance, and pregame, and then we’re there for the entire game. We perform at every men’s and women’s home basketball game too. It’s a huge time commitment and then you are expected to always be on top of your game and know your material.
How has dancing influenced your approach to engineering?
I feel like dance has really given me a unique perspective on engineering because I have thought creatively my whole life through choreography. I also think being a dancer has helped me with memorization, which comes in handy in engineering. I’ve had to memorize routines since I was a little girl learning routines, so it just comes naturally to me now.
What do you like the most about being at Georgia Tech?
There are so many opportunities to get involved and meet new people, and the people are so down to earth, but motivated at the same time. It’s inspirational to see what everyone is doing — if you have an interest there is something for you to do at Tech. I help MSE with recruiting. It’s a really cool way to get people involved in your major and meet potential new students, and it’s also a good way to get to know the administration.
Why did you choose MSE as your major?
I’m really interested in bio materials and the way they can be used in medicine to improve quality of life. It gives me the chance to work in the medical field and help people without having to go through med school and become a doctor. We can build the tools and materials that doctors use.
Has anyone ever stereotyped you because you’re a dancer?
When I was in high school I signed up for AP biology. The teacher, who knew I was on the dance team, came up to me and said, “Are you sure that you want to take this class? This is for college credit.”
I just looked at him, and I was like, “I can do it.” I was doing well in school and I knew I could handle one more AP class. I ended up being valedictorian, and it was nice to be able to show him that dancers can be great students too. Maybe I helped change his mind about some of the stereotypes.
How did you get into dancing?
When I was little I danced around the house all the time. I ran into furniture and stuff and my parents said, “We need to put her in to dance class, so she’ll stop hitting furniture.” I have been doing it for as long as I can remember and I love it. I feel like I wouldn’t be as happy if I wasn’t dancing in some way.
Have you been involved in any research?
This past summer I researched at NASA Ames Research Center in California. I worked on this project called the ADEPT, which is basically a mechanically deployable heat shield to be used on spacecraft. They’re going to use that technology to go to Venus in hopefully 2023 if it keeps getting funded. It would be incredible to be able to say something I worked on went to another planet.
What types of stereotypes have you faced as a dancer?
Proving you can dance is a little bit easier than proving that you are intelligent. Education is important to me, so it’s frustrating to me when people assume that I came to Tech just to dance and that I’m not smart enough for engineering. But it’s not like that at all. I came here to study aerospace. That’s my dream.
Why did you choose to study engineering?
I have always been more of a math and science person and I figured if I was coming to Georgia Tech that I’d study engineering. That’s what Tech is known for. I chose ISyE because of the emphasis on math, which suits me.
What’s your biggest challenge as a member of Goldrush?
Time management is a big challenge for all of us on the team. In addition to Goldrush and engineering I have a psychology minor and I’m director of Relay for Life. I’m also in a sorority and I work at the CRC. So it is safe to say I literally have no time. When we get to the point where football and basketball seasons overlap I run back and forth to everything. But I still manage; I still have my HOPE GPA. So it’s working out so far.
What is your favorite part of being a Tech student?
I love being surrounded by ambitious people and listening to them share their goals. It’s intimidating sometimes, but it also pushes you. We really can do anything, and seeing that potential is really cool.
How do you balance dancing and engineering?
Growing up a dancer was like living in two different worlds because both of my parents have Ph.D.s. There was a balancing act, but I did find out early on that you can have that analytical side and the dancer side. Both parts have been a part of my life for a long time.
Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
I wanted a school where I could be challenged academically, yet still be able to have fun, go to football games, and be involved in Greek life. I was very torn between here and another out-of-state school, but the HOPE scholarship was hard to pass up!
Why did you choose ISyE?
I didn’t even know what industrial engineering was until I came to FASET. I attended the IE information session, and I just felt that it was the perfect fit for me since I wanted to do something business related, but I like more of the analytical side, so I changed my major right away. My mom was very surprised when she came out of one of the presentations and I had already changed my major, but I think she has come to expect that kind of spontaneity from me.
Where are you co-oping and what are your thoughts on it?
I am co-oping at Manhattan Associates, a supply-chain software consulting company. This is my first semester, but so far I love it! I have already learned so much, and it’s awesome and very refreshing to see that what I have learned in the classroom is applicable in the real world. It’s also great because I now have confirmation that I am in the right major. I think everyone should do a co-op or internship because you learn so much that you aren’t able to learn in the classroom.
Why did you choose civil engineering?
Civil engineering has different tracks you can take, and I wanted to do something with design or construction that had an environmental basis to it. Civil engineering is absorbing the building construction program, so it was a perfect fit. After meeting some people in the industry, it really makes me feel like I made the right decision when it comes to my education and my career after graduation.
How would you describe your Tech experience so far?
Being here has been the most difficult challenge of my life. I’m not sure how I’m going to make it sometimes, but I know that Tech accepted me because they believe I can do it. Tech pushes you past what you think your limits are. I know that when I graduate I’ll look back and wonder how I did it all, but I’m going to be so proud of myself for meeting the challenges and doing things I never thought I’d be able to do.
How has being on Goldrush impacted you?
I’m such a nerd, and I have such an engineering mindset, but I really think dancing has allowed me to come out of my shell and be a more open person. I’m still very introverted, but when I’m in my Goldrush uniform it brings out a different side of me. I become all about school spirit and I become super outgoing. Then I go back to studying my dynamics homework and playing video games. It’s fun to have both sides.