Everything about Kaitlyn Wright indicates she has the world on a string.
She makes the Arkansas Tech University Dean’s List every semester. She has provided leadership for multiple student organizations. She is graduating with honors from ATU with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree, a minor in mathematics and an Associate of Science degree in manufacturing.
But even Wright, winner of the 2022 Margaret Young Award as the most outstanding senior female student at Arkansas Tech, has moments when she doubts herself.
“Am I working hard enough…am I doing my part to be a productive member of the community…what can I do more…am I even doing a good job at what I am doing?” wondered Wright. “These are all questions that cross my mind constantly. Being nominated for this award gave me the affirmation that I need to continue to be strong-willed, hardworking and motivated. Receiving this recognition is incredibly rewarding. However, I believe it is a direct reflection of how Arkansas Tech University has positively impacted my life.”
Wright will receive the Margaret Young Award during ATU spring commencement on Saturday, May 7.
A former Tradition Keepers chairman for Presidential Leadership Cabinet, Wright has also served as vice president and secretary of internal affairs for Student Government Association, vice president for Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and as a nominee for 2021 ATU Homecoming court.
“I’ve met a lot of amazing students and advisors through those organizations,” said Wright. “Dr. (Keegan) Nichols, Mr. (Kevin) Solomon, Dr. (Brett) Bruner and Chelsea Neal…all of those people, throughout my journey…have been there to encourage me and remind me that I am doing a good job and this is worthwhile. I couldn’t have done it without them. I had all this fire, but I didn’t know what direction to go with it or how to make it useful. They were very helpful in channeling my energy. You can have great ideas, but what does it matter if you can’t get them done?”
Wright has given 120 hours of volunteer service to benefit non-profit community organizations and she has been a four-year participant in intramural sports.
“I think the competitiveness that started out in sports has helped give me a drive in my education and leadership,” said Wright. “A lot of those skills that I learned growing up through sports is what allowed me to apply those in other places. School work gets old, tiring and you want to give up, but you’ve come so far. It’s like a tournament. When you’re so close to winning, you can push through. I love to win.
“Being involved on campus has definitely helped me out a lot,” continued Wright. “When I came to school here, I knew maybe one or two people. That was scary, but getting involved was a great way to overcome that. Unless you put yourself out there, it’s hard to grow and expand as a person.”
Wright’s first memories of Arkansas Tech center around Time Out for Tech, the annual preview day for high school seniors. She recalls being impressed by the equipment available to engineering students and the beauty of the tree-lined campus.
“Arkansas Tech was the perfect fit for me,” said Wright. “I liked the student-to-teacher ratio. I felt like I would have more one-on-one with teachers. Because of that, as long as you are going to class and doing what you’re supposed to, (the professors) know you by name and they’re more than a professor. They invest in your life. They become more of a friend instead of just a professor. That was really awesome to meet all these new people, make all these connections and have big supporters.”
That’s not to say it was always easy. As a woman in STEM, Wright’s gender put her in the minority from day one.
“It’s very intimidating coming in, especially as a freshman and seeing all these guys and you are one of three girls,” said Wright. “Internally, you feel like you have to prove yourself, and there are cases that men think they’re more intelligent than I am. Sometimes they’re a little hard headed as far as working with them on projects and trying to get my idea through to them because they aren’t quite as open to hearing it. I’ve definitely encountered that and it’s frustrating, but it hasn’t been a huge problem for me.”
A two-time intern with Lockheed Martin in her hometown of Camden, Wright is an advocate for internships and how they helped her in career preparation and in her studies.
“You’re getting a taste of what your degree is going toward,” said Wright. “I think that’s huge because then you can go from your internship to the classroom and directly apply everything you did. Sometimes (internships) put you a step ahead of someone else. Having that little bit of experience can go a long way.”
Upon graduation, Wright will begin her career as a full-time mechanical engineer with Lockheed Martin in Camden.
As she prepares to take that next step, Wright expressed gratitude for the privilege of joining the distinguished list of Margaret Young Award winners at Arkansas Tech.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Wright. “It’s an incredibly high honor, and I never in a million years thought it would be me. This goes to show more about the people who have helped me and not as much about me. Every step of the way there’s always been someone to teach me, guide me and lend a helping hand whenever they could. They formed me into the person I am today.
“To me, Arkansas Tech has been a family,” continued Wright. “Everyone has been so welcoming and so helpful. That’s meant a lot to me. I’ve made a lot of connections, I’ve met a lot of people and those aren’t people I’ll be done talking to after these four years. If I ever needed anything, I could contact them and they’d be there in a heartbeat. Everyone (at ATU) wants you to succeed. They want you to do well, and they want to do what they can to make that happen. I think that makes a difference in a university.”