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My W&L: Katie Strickland ’15

“W&L has prepared me to bridge the gap between policy makers and engineers and help lead our nation in a technology-driven world.”

Looking back at my experience at Washington and Lee, it is bittersweet to move on to the next chapter of my life. I have grown in so many ways at this wonderful institution. My professors’ commitment to supporting my passions and encouraging me to push myself, coupled with the wonderful community of W&L students, has created four unforgettable years. It is difficult to choose one defining experience at Washington and Lee, so I will try and capture a few incredible opportunities that shape who I am today.

I am studying both engineering and politics at W&L and have always been extremely interested in pursuing a career in global security, whether it be working for a defense contractor or in defense policy. I believe that in order to make good policy decisions, politicians need to be well versed in technology. I also believe that engineers must understand political philosophy to challenge the ethical implications of their innovations. W&L has prepared me to bridge the gap between policy makers and engineers and help lead our nation in a technology-driven world.

As a freshman I was selected to participate in Washington Term, a program where students take an American Government course while interning in Washington, D.C., over their Spring Term. I interned for Speaker John Boehner, worked for a PAC supporting the Speaker, and also worked with the National Republican Congressional Committee. I had the opportunity to interview Speaker Boehner and his senior staff for my final paper on Politics vs. Policy in the House of Representatives. Through the Program, Professor Connelly’s politics class came to life in the heart of the nation’s capital. Washington Term was a springboard for incredible internships in D.C. where I researched nuclear nonproliferation and defense policy issues. Washington and Lee’s Johnson Opportunity Grant and John Warner Public Service Award funded my internships at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the American Enterprise Institute’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. This year I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Professor Connelly to help other W&L students secure internships through the Washington Term Program.

Over the last four years at Washington and Lee I have also been involved with Engineers Without Borders. I have been able to help grow the club from five engineering students to over twenty-five active participants across all majors. EWB brings students with diverse interests together and a passion to serve the local and global community to make a positive impact. I have had incredible opportunities working on water purification and accessibility projects in Guatemala and Bolivia. EWB partnered with villagers to implement engineering solutions and solve real-world problems. The most incredible takeaways manifested themselves in cross-cultural connections and close friendships with villagers–a shared smile, a celebratory dance. As President of EWB, I am excited about the expanded set of global projects on the horizon, which will allow more Washington and Lee students to make a global impact, learn new skills, and connect with villagers across the globe.

Lastly, Washington and Lee prepared me for an incredible opportunity to study Engineering Science at the University of Oxford last year, by far the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Washington and Lee’s Engineering Department supported my year abroad and set me up for success at one of the top engineering programs in the world. I made lifelong friends while abroad, and several have come to visit me in the U.S. over the holidays. I hope to return to Oxford someday to pursue a Masters in Political Theory.

I am thankful to Washington and Lee for an incredible four years full of many life-shaping experiences. I encourage freshman at Washington and Lee to find something that they are passionate about and fearlessly pour themselves into their dreams.

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Majors: Dual Degree: BS in Physics-Engineering and BA in Politics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • President, Engineers Without Borders
  • PAACE Chair
  • Kappa Delta
  • Contact Committee
  • Women in Technology and Science
  • Tutoring
  • Bonner Scholar
  • Co-Chair, First Year Orientation Committee
  • First Year Leadership Council
  • Jubilee Women’s A Cappella

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • I interned for Speaker John Boehner through the Washington Term Program, for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the American Enterprise Institute, and Accenture.
  • I studied Engineering Science at the University of Oxford for my junior year abroad.

Post-Graduation Plans: Working for Accenture’s Management Consulting Practice in San Francisco

Favorite W&L Memory: Working with Engineers Without Borders to install a clean water irrigation system with the villagers of Pampoyo in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. I also enjoy tubing down the Maury in Lexington during Spring Term.

Favorite Class: My Writing 100 class: Schools of Magic with Professor Keen was one of my favorite classes at Washington and Lee. Professor Keen is an incredible professor who created a close-knit dynamic in our class.

Favorite W&L Event: So difficult to choose! Homecoming is always fun. I enjoy catching up with all the Washington and Lee alumni that come back home to Lexington.

Favorite Lexington Landmark: I love Lexington in the fall. The trees are so beautiful! Also I could not survive without LexCo cappuccinos — and their cranberry walnut muffins are to die for.

What’s your passion? I am passionate about working with people to confront challenges and make a positive impact. Whether it is bringing inspiring speakers to Washington and Lee, analyzing the budget for the Pentagon’s F-35 program, or testing water sanitation in Guatemala, my experience at Washington and Lee has enabled me to grow and develop this passion.

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What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? In my spare time I enjoy snow and water skiing.

Why did you choose W&L? I was drawn to Washington and Lee’s close knit community and collaborative culture. I also wanted to study Engineering at a Liberal Arts College. Washington and Lee was the perfect fit.

Why did you choose your major? Why engineering and politics? I have always been extremely interested in pursuing a career in global security, whether it be working for a defense contractor or working in defense policy. I believe that in order to make good policy decisions, politicians need to be well versed in technology. I also believe that engineers must challenge the ethical implications of their innovations. I hope to bridge the gap between policy makers and engineers to help lead our nation in our technology driven world.

What professor has inspired you? It is extremely difficult to choose just one professor. Professor Mazilu is an incredible role model. As a female physicist in a male dominated field, she has supported and encouraged me throughout my time at Washington and Lee. Professor Erickson’s passion for using engineering to make a positive difference around the world inspired my involvement in Engineers Without Borders. Professor Connelly’s commitment to giving students the opportunity to engage with our federal government inspired me to apply for Washington Term and intern on Capitol Hill and for various think tanks in DC.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? There are so many incredible opportunities at Washington and Lee. Find something that you are passionate about and pour yourself into it.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus? Four years at Washington and Lee go by so quickly! Make the most of every moment.

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