As the 2016-17 academic year is now in full swing, it gives the Department of Industrial Engineering great pleasure to spotlight one of our exemplary graduate students, Myrtede Alfred. Alfred is a PhD student from Miami, Florida who completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management and Bachelor of Art in History at Florida International University (FIU), and earned her Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE) at Clemson University.
If Alfred’s name sounds familiar, it is because she has been in the campus headlines several times during the past year. This past January, she was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Excellence in Service, a campus award, for her volunteer work as a tutor at the Clemson Homework Center. Shortly after, in the spring, she was once again recognized for her outstanding promise as a young researcher by winning the prestigious Southern Regional Education Board Dissertation Award. Recently, she was featured in Clemson’s Newsstand for work she did as part of a multidisciplinary engineering team that traveled to Central America. Alfred, along with Shakira Hobbs, a civil engineering doctoral candidate at Clemson, and Evvan Morton, a sustainability engineering doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, combined their engineering talents and spent part of the summer laying the groundwork to return next summer to build an anaerobic digester. An anaerobic digester facilitates the breakdown of food waste through a series of biological processes in which microorganisms convert the byproducts to biogas, such as propane and methane. The addition of an anaerobic digester in the Sittee River village in Belize will improve the quality of life of the villagers by providing a sustainable energy source to generate cooking fuel, which would be very beneficial in this village and throughout developing regions of the world.
As her undergraduate degrees in business administration and history may suggest, Alfred’s path to becoming an engineer has not been direct. She is like many non-traditional engineers that find their way to Clemson’s industrial engineering program. She has always considered herself the type of person who likes to ask the core question of industrial engineers: “how can I do that better?” Alfred’s innate desire and interest to improve the world around her attracted her to seek graduate programs that would leverage her curiosity and problem-solving ability. Fortunately, Alfred worked with industrial engineers at Ocean Bank who helped her realize that a graduate program in industrial engineering would lend the opportunity to build on her skills and give her the chance to make an impact in the world around her. That is how she found her way to Clemson’s MSIE program.
As Alfred was completing her MSIE, she again found herself looking at what to do next. She never really had considered pursuing a doctoral degree until she was about to graduate. As she reflects on her “aha moment,” she looks back and recalls the encouragement and inspiration she received as a member of the Black Graduate Student Association (BSGA). Being a member of BSGA helped her meet fellow graduate students with similar backgrounds. It also led her to see that graduate students in this peer group were succeeding as PhD students in various programs. This insight, along with the encouragement of her family and several Clemson industrial engineering faculty members, helped her decide to continue at Clemson and pursue her PhD.
Now that Alfred is well into her doctoral studies and research, she finds herself refining her direction for the future. Upon completing her studies at Clemson, she sees herself investigating the considerations of access to education. Ultimately, she would like to make a career of working on research and/or policy in education. Her goal in this area is to improve the quality of education in impoverished communities with a focus on increasing the pipeline of students of color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Science (STEM) majors and programs in higher education. Alfred’s view on the role of education is that “improving education and increasing students’ access to education opportunities is vastly important, not just for developing a skilled and diverse workforce, but for all the other benefits that come with a better educated population.”
Clemson IE is proud of Alfred for her volunteerism and for her plans for the future. Her unselfish dedication is already making a difference, and we look forward to her future accomplishments as she makes strives in her career towards helping improve educational access and to securing the benefits that come from developing an educated workforce.