By Allison McLellan
“As of right now, my academic goal is to survive and make it to receive a degree in material science and engineering. A lot of people say this, but this degree will allow me to change the way my family is living and provide them with a solid foundation. They have raised me to become the person I am today, and it is only right to pay them back by becoming successful and making them proud.”
Francis Almonte is a MSE sophomore studying at UConn, but he has been motivated to become an engineer since high school. After narrowing down his college choices, he chose UConn to challenge himself with the most beneficial education he could receive.
During Francis’ freshman year, Laboratory Manager Adam Wentworth helped him make the decision to study material science and engineering. Through effort and determination, Francis was accepted into the MSE program in June 2015. He now works as Adam’s laboratory assistant, ensuring safety throughout all labs and guiding other students that require help. The undergraduates enjoys this opportunity to utilize the equipment discussed in his classes and acquire hands on experience for his future career.
Adam says, “I recognized Francis as someone with strong motivation and will to succeed. His involvement in the Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center and with tour guide groups shows his character as someone who leads by example. As my lab assistant, I hope to give him the opportunity to develop his skills and continue to inspire others.”
In addition to outreach work, Francis’ involvement extends to various memberships in engineering organizations. Since joining the Engineering Ambassadors his freshman year, he has worked to build individuals who not only care about the engineering field, but also the community. Another group is the Society of Women Engineers, where he enjoys collaborating on programs such as Multiply Your Options to promote STEM fields to young girls. Through the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, he has learned the fun in engineering and how it can provide opportunities to underprivileged people. Other memberships are with the 3D Printing Club and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Francis credits his success so far to the BRIDGE Program, a five-week intensive study in math, chemistry, physics, and computer programming that prepares underrepresented students for UConn’s engineering curriculum. “The summer BRIDGE Program has helped me make friends at this large institution and also prepare for the tough road of an engineering career. I was able to meet people who believe in me as much as I believe in them—a family away from home.”
Kevin McLaughlin, director of the School of Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center, helped Francis get involved with the BRIDGE Program before he became an engineer. As a teacher of ENGR1000 for incoming freshman, he acts as an advisor to many in the Outreach Center, greatly impacting Francis’ undergraduate career. “He was the first person I met at UConn; when I needed a job to pay off college, he offered me work at his office. He is a role model for many, and some day I would like to achieve half of the things he has done.”
These connections have pushed Francis to strive to be the best he can. Wherever the future takes him, he wants to use his achievements to motivate others, too. “As a child, I do not remember having any experience with engineering, and in high school I rarely even heard of it. I would like to promote engineering to show some of the students from my hometown of Bronx, NY, or anywhere in the world, that they can also become what they want to be.”