Industrial engineering senior Victoria Hebda is defying the stereotype that engineers aren’t the most socially conscious folks. In fact, she thinks practical expertise gives engineers the power to dramatically improve people’s lives — and the planet. It’s an ethos she intends to live herself post-graduation, when she pursues a dream of working in the sustainable energy field. And in her time on campus, she’s already made a big impact, whether it’s helping students master tough subjects in the Supplemental Instruction program or motivating her fellow student-athletes on the cross-country team.
Victoria, in her own words
On blending social activism and engineering. “Some people think of engineers as being single-minded on things like math, science and making money. But there’s empathy in all people. For me, my freshman year, I had a professor in my composition class and we talked about all kinds of social issues: racial tensions, poverty, mass incarceration. And it really got me thinking about what I can do — not just as a career — but to be a social activist and help my community. I think if I am able to do what I want to do — which is work in sustainability — I can do things like work on renewable energy projects that help the environment, or help people who are affected by pollution. So on a grander scale, I think engineers are able to make this larger difference.”
On helping others find their academic stride. “One of my most memorable experiences at UM-Dearborn is being a Supplemental Instruction [SI] leader. As SI leaders, we facilitate a group of students and help them have a more concrete understanding of what’s being taught in class. I became an SI leader for Physics 150, and it was very surprising when my professor asked me to be an SI leader as a freshman. It’s very rewarding to see something I did help someone else on a personal level. I’ve had people say, ‘You know, that one thing you said just made everything make sense.’ That’s very fulfilling to see students grow, and watch them progress from exam to exam through the end of each semester.”
Being a student-athlete. “I’m one of four senior captains on the women’s cross-country team. Being a captain is a little different from just being on the team because you have a responsibility to keep people motivated. There are definitely times in cross country when you feel like you’re on your own: You’re running your own race, you can only go as fast as you can. So, it can be harder to stay motivated when you don’t have someone to push you. I think my role as the captain is to be that person that says, ‘Yes, this is tough, but you’ve put in the work, you deserve to do well.’ That allows us to get through the same pain — through every single practice, through all the long bus rides — and hang in there.”