In STEP with Hulon Jenkins, Computer Engineering, the University of Michigan

Gaining technical skills as an engineering student can be difficult, and many internships and jobs expect students to have done more than just what was taught in the classroom. I cannot recommend engineering project teams enough, as they allow you to get hands-on experience that will develop your technical, leadership and interpersonal skills tremendously.

When I first came to the University of Michigan, I knew I wanted to study computer engineering (coding + electronic hardware) but wasn’t doing much besides working through introductory coding, math, and physics classes. I then decided to sit in on a Michigan Mars Rover Team (MRover) Electrical meeting, where I was immediately exposed to circuit board design on my first day, which was a significant step up from what I was learning in my classes, and a completely new concept for me. From there, my interest in circuits and electronics rocketed.

As a freshman, I got first-hand experience designing, manufacturing, and testing circuit boards (which isn’t formally taught until junior/senior year classes). I also met other students in computer engineering who became some of my closest friends and still are to this day. Additionally, the team held social events where I got to meet more students and have a blast outside of class. I continued to put in work on the team and was selected to lead the Embedded Hardware team going into my junior year.

This was when my technical knowledge really started to grow exponentially. I met and mentored new students and taught them that with time, they could develop the same skills I had. I led the team to design and create some of the most advanced electronics the team had seen, and learned an incredible amount about software, hardware and how they worked together. Being in a position where you can guide your own learning and help guide others at the same time was a phenomenal experience.

Each year as I applied to internships, I found myself talking mostly about my time on MRover. I could point out what projects I worked on, my exact role in them, and the technical topics I learned and worked through.

Going into engineering, the best advice I can give is to join a project team. They are one of the best ways to develop technical skills, which then help you get internships/jobs, and are probably the best place to meet like-minded people in your field which will further help you develop into a great engineer.

Hulon Jenkins

Steps To The Future is happy to announce a new blog feature, In STEP with. Current college students or recent graduates (at the time of the article’s writing) share different aspects of their experiences at their respective colleges. Please let these students know how much you value their perspectives with a positive review.

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May 2021 Update

Professional development continues to be a major factor in my work life. With physical visits to campuses curtailed during 2020 (most are re-opening for in-person visits), I spend about 7 -10 hours per week on virtual visits with college admission counselors. The IECA, one of my professional organizations, regularly conducts College Conversations, an hour-long presentation with time built in for Q & A. To date, members of IECA had sessions with the colleges on the chart. Additionally, I added to this list by facilitating sessions in my capacity as the college counselor for the Montessori School of Raleigh where, along with the students, we learned more about UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, the College of Wooster, Queens University of Charlotte, Muhlenberg, Elon, Western Carolina, North Carolina Central, the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Did you know UNC Wilmington has a major in Coastal Engineering or that Western Carolina (along with UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State) is a NC Promise institution? A NC Promise school’s in-state tuition is $500 while non-residents pay $2500 per semester.

Our virtual world allows for hours upon hours of accessible college information sessions. I had to step back and limit myself to a reasonable number of hours of “college visits”.

I challenge my students regularly to move beyond their comfort zone and during the height of the pandemic, I stretched myself way beyond my level of comfort. I am one of 14 co-authors of Becoming The Shero, an anthology depicting the journeys of entrepreneurs at different stages of their lives. My story is in the Embracing the Pivot section.

Another way I stay current is through my new position at Providence College. As of August 2020, I am the College Supervisor for the School Counseling Program. What does the college supervisor do? I supervise the students in the program during their 2-semester internship at a school, where they are directly supervised by their Site Supervisor, a certified professional school counselor. It is the student teaching equivalent for school counseling.

Reading is a daily pleasure for me. Here are nine books (not in chronological order) that helped me to educate myself about current events and issues of social justice:

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents ~ Isabel Wilkerson
  • How to Be An Anti-Racist ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped From The Beginning ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • I’m Still Here ~ Austin Channing Brown
  • The Color Of Law ~ Richard Rothstein
  • We Want To Do More Than Survive ~ Bettina Love
  • Down Along With That Devil’s Bones ~ Connor Towne O’Neill
  • Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling ~ Rebecca Atkins & Alicia Oglesby
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race ~ Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

To stay up-to-date on trends in college, career and paying for college, see my list of books under the “Parent Resources” tab.

I challenge my students to be lifelong readers. I am practicing what I preach. What are you reading today?

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