article Fall 2022

Humans of the Engineering Campus

Throughout my time at UW, my engineering friends and I have spent a lot of time parked in Engineering Hall doing homework and finishing projects. We’ve bonded just as much over the difficulty of finding a table within a 10-mile radius of an outlet as we have over the frustrations of maneuvering our legs around the oddly configured table legs.

While conducting research for this article, I started thinking about a new question: who else studies in the engineering buildings besides engineers? To answer this question, I conducted two random interviews in mid-October on the engineering campus. It happened that neither of the interviewees were engineering majors.

Clara Haeffner, a current senior in neurobiology
Photo by: Annie Krillenberger

I first interviewed Clara Haeffner, a senior in neurobiology who loves Bon Iver and chai tea. When I approached her, she was sitting near the entrance of E-Hall, engrossed in her studies. I asked what her motivations were to get her through her difficult major as a woman in STEM at UW-Madison. Her reply? “There is no greater motivation than wanting to do well for a dream job.”

In the future, Haeffner wants to become involved in academic research associated with neurobiology, and potentially become a professor. Her specific interest is in affective neuroscience, which deals with emotional responses created by the brain. As someone who spends most of my own time poring over transport and thermodynamic textbooks, this was something I had not heard of before. It sounded very interesting.

Haeffner says that some people who have helped her on her path are her parents, who are academically-minded. She also feels that having friends in her major has helped her significantly. Asked if she could give one piece of advice, she suggests: “Be friendly and open to making connections in your major. Friends in your major will help you through hard times in classes.”

Eren Wolf, a current senior in environmental science and conservation biology
Photo by: Annie Krillenberger

The second person I interviewed was studying solo on the top floor of the Engineering Centers Building. Eren Wolf is a senior in environmental science and conservation biology. She works as a lab assistant at the Arboretum and enjoys exploring it when she is not busy studying.

Wolf shared that one of her motivations for getting through her degree is connecting with her peers. She finds it important to have people to be able to communicate both successes and struggles with. “Build a community—if you can—of supportive people who can cheer you on,” she says.

In the future, Wolf would like to be involved in ecology research. She is interested in working for the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Natural Resources, and possibly going to grad school down the road. She loves going to the farmer’s market, drinking hot apple cider, and listening to Post Animal.

Over the course of my interviews, I found it significant that both students stressed the importance of building a community. In difficult engineering classes, it can be easy to get into a routine of managing the stresses of college life alone. As was emphasized by our peers outside of COE, the importance of building a community and the positive impact it can have cannot be overstated. 

After these interviews, I realized that the fondest memories I have of being in E-Hall come not just from the quirks, like the minimal outlets and weirdly-configured tables, but also from having a good community of people to be able to spend time with.

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