“Strangely enough, the insane study sessions for exams are (now) a fond memory. For our Control Systems Engineering class, Dr. Shiue asked the class if we would like a take-home exam. The class opted for the deceptively easy-sounding take-home exam. That took several days and several nights of spending 14 hours on campus — and I was a commuter!”

Elizabeth Hayes’ real-world experience began in 2003 after her graduation from Bartlett High School in Memphis. She had planned to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but instead participated in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, a scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that landed her in Dresden, Germany, where she repeated the 11th grade studying German and physics.

When she returned to the U.S., she began taking classes at the University of Alaska but ended up relocating to Seattle, where she became a stand-up comic. That career led her to move to San Francisco, where she spent a year working at two comedy clubs, plus attending City College of San Francisco.

Elizabeth then came back home to Memphis, where she worked in web design for a small consulting company. After a stint in the Navy, she went back on the road for four years— which ended with a cycling trip from Bar Harbor, Maine to Memphis in 2012. “On the ride, I discovered a mental strength and self-confidence to pursue something that took time and preparation to accomplish,” she says. “After that trip, I entertained the idea of going back to school, because I believed that I might possibly be able to finish it. Just maybe.”

Elizabeth enrolled in Southwest Tennessee Community College (STCC) and studied Civil Engineering Technology, completing the coursework with a 3.94 GPA. “I was not as bad a student I had previously thought,” she says.

While at STCC, Elizabeth participated in a Corps of Engineers tour where she met Dr. L. Yu Lin, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at CBU. “Dr. Lin suggested that I tour the CBU campus and warned me not to get discouraged about the tuition because the University offered numerous scholarships that I should investigate. I really think that meeting is what tipped the scales for me,” she recalls.

As a 30-something student, Elizabeth felt intimidated when she first began her studies at CBU. “The Engineering student body was full of high-achieving, traditional-age students. At times, I could not imagine even being in their academic league,” she says. “But somehow, I was able to hang with them — if only by sheer will.”

Although she majored in Electrical Engineering, Elizabeth also took courses in Civil and Mechanical Engineering and was a member of the student chapters of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She also served as Vice President of the CBU Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. During her senior year, she also had an internship at Fisher Arnold, one of the largest consulting engineering firms in the Southeast.

When she graduated in 2018 with her BS in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Electronics and Systems (and a minor in Mathematics), Elizabeth was selected by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering as the recipient of its Featured Student Award “for Outstanding Community Service, Service to the ECE Department, and Service to the University.” And Fisher Arnold hired her as a full-time Planning and Systems Analytics Engineer — where she stayed for four years until taking her present position at Nucor Corporation as a Power Engineer in 2021.

As a professional engineer, Elizabeth has served as Secretary of the Memphis District of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and as YP Chair of the Memphis Chapter of IEEE. She has been honored as the IEEE Featured Engineer by the Memphis-Area Joint Engineers Council, Volunteer of the Year by SAME, and the Young Engineer of the Year by the Memphis Chapter of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers. She also serves every year as a judge for the FIRST Lego League, which she began during her junior year at CBU at the suggestion of Dr. John Ventura.

Another ongoing passion that Elizabeth acquired as a student at CBU began when she took Dr. Eric Welch’s Unmanned Aerial Systems course as an elective, wherein she received her Part 107 Commercial Drone License, and then decided to build a drone as her senior project. As a graduation gift to herself, she took a flying lesson and was amazed at how much of the drone class information was directly applicable to general aviation. Today, Elizabeth also has a Private Pilot’s License from the FAA in manned aircraft.

I truly enjoy and miss being able to dedicate my time in solving problems and exploring new educational horizons. Persistence pays off. Attacking problems as a team makes everyone successful. Coffee is your friend.