Sarah Gandalfo

2013 Life in the Fast Lane


Sarah Gandolfo isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

As president of University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Formula SAE team, she’s ready to jump in and get things done.

“In order to make a difference, one has to first see that something needs to change in order for improvement to happen,” she said. “Using the proper channels to ensure things will be better for the future is something I value strongly.”

Sarah will be the first to tell you that she didn’t expect to be named president of the team. Since she would only be on the team for two seasons, she didn’t know if she had the right experience.

But when the team struggled in 2012 after the graduation of some key members, Sarah stepped in as vice president to help rebuild UM-Dearborn’s Formula SAE team.

This year, as president, she’s continued with the rebuilding efforts.

“Miss Gandolfo stepped into the leadership role and continuously encouraged new team members,” said Taehyun Shim, associate professor and SAE faculty adviser. “She turned around the UM-Dearborn team to become more competitive in all aspects of the project, including fundraising, teamwork, time keeping, design and analysis.”

It’s a lot to keep track of, for sure. Sarah likens the job as president to being a small business owner.

“Being a leader of SAE is not just about building a race car,” she said. “There is a lot of work that goes on to produce a student-designed vehicle from scratch.”

Now, she says, she has an added perspective—that of a leader, as well as of a team member. She knows when to let her section captains lead and when to step in. And she knows how to handle setbacks and keep moving ahead.

Those lessons are key as she plans for life after graduation. Sarah’s enjoyed the racing scene and is leaning toward a career in the racing industry. With her SAE experience, as well as her co-op with ILJIN USA, she says her hands-on experience have prepared her to jump in and get her hands dirty—and that’s just the way she likes it.