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In her three years at Lafayette, Christina Stenman ’03 has conducted historical research, studied in Europe, and helped test commercial airliner engines. This summer she’ll help design aircraft nozzles, and next year, she plans to study the structure of a French cathedral or similar historical building.

“I’ve become interested in almost everything I’ve studied,” says Stenman, a mechanical engineering major and mathematics minor from Windsor, Conn. She has managed to keep a stellar grade-point average throughout her experiences and collect two prestigious prizes for scholarship and citizenship.

Stenman, who enjoyed studying math and science as a student at Loomis Chaffee School in her hometown, says she liked what she learned about Lafayette’s engineering program, but she didn’t decide on her major until after she helped design and build a weather monitoring system in her first-year Introduction to Engineering course.

“It actually collected data on the roof of the engineering building,” she says, explaining that she was thrilled by the chance to help build something useful and to work with other students in the process. “The design process is what I find exciting — the process of going from an idea to an actual thing.

As her interest in engineering grew, Stenman also explored her interest in history, writing the research paper “From Chicken Farmer to Nazi Leader: Heinrich Himmler’s Ascension to Power” for her First-Year Seminar and presenting it at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

As a Marquis Scholar, Stenman spent the January interim semester of her sophomore year studying in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic with a group of students guided by Robert Weiner, Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of History, and Rado Pribic, Oliver Williams Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures and chair of the International Affairs and Russian and Eastern European Studies programs.

“I ended up seeing all the things I studied about in my First-Year Seminar,” she says.

By the end of her sophomore year, Stenman had picked up several awards in addition to her experiences. She received the William G. McLean Tau Beta Pi Prize, awarded to a sophomore engineering student for academic performance, campus citizenship, and professional orientation, and the Eugene P. Chase Phi Beta Kappa Prize, awarded to a sophomore who has demonstrated scholarship as a first-year student.

Last summer, Stenman interned within the test systems group of the aeronautical engineering firm Pratt & Whitney. “I really enjoyed the testing aspect of mechanical engineering,” she says, explaining that the experience helped her decide to work in industry for several years after earning her bachelor’s degree before beginning graduate studies. “I had to work with other engineers, management, even vendors. I learned to interact with people from a whole bunch of different backgrounds.”

This summer, Stenman plans to return to Pratt & Whitney, where she’ll work in a group that designs nozzles for military aircraft. Next year, she plans to complete a senior honors thesis on a historical structure, guided by Leonard A. Van Gulick, Matthew Baird Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

“I’ll be combining history with engineering,” she says, adding that she would welcome the chance to combine those interests in her professional life.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Stenman finds time to volunteer for Lafayette’s Kids in the Community program and serve as a campus tour guide. How has she accomplished so much?

“You have to learn how to manage your time,” Stenman says. “And you should take advantage of all the resources … I think my professors are definitely the best resources. I’m in their offices at least a few times a week. They’re always there.”

Stenman says she chose Lafayette for its small size, emphasis on both engineering and liberal arts, and overall atmosphere.

“I got a great feel when I came to Lafayette the summer between my junior and senior years in high school,” she says, explaining that when she told admissions staff members she was interested in engineering, they immediately contacted then-head of the department Mike Paolino, Dana Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and arranged for her to meet him.

Categorized in: Academic News