Industrial Engineering sophomore Alyssa Smith receives prestigious scholarship

August 10, 2018

 Alyssa Smith, a sophomore in the department of Industrial Engineering, was recently awarded the Jesse Jackson Toyota Scholarship Winner. Smith was selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants, with awardees pulled from African-American college sophomores who have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

The award comes with two mandatory co-ops with Toyota, and was provided through the Rainbow Push Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international membership organization fighting for social change founded by Reverend Jesse Jackson.

“I love Toyota. The Toyota way was something that I took into consideration. The five pillars, The Toyota Way: Respect, Challenge, Teamwork, Genchi Genbutsu (hands on experience), and Kaizen (constant improvement),” said Smith. “When I was in my interview process, I could explain why and in those five ways. Those are all ways that I try to live my life now.”

To qualify, Smith went to Plano, TX for an onsite, working interview at Toyota. While Smith had limited workforce experience through entry-level positions during high school, she turned to Associate Director Mary Andrade, Co-op Advisor Michael Keibler, and the staff of Office of Career Development and Cooperative Education.

“When I got the call first, I called my mom. Then I ran to the Speed Office. I told Michael, I told Mary. I was so excited," Smith said. "They said that they knew you were gonna get it. They were so happy for me. They’re all like rock stars. They’re all really cool.”

That excitement was reciprocated by the staff in the co-op office, who work for moments like Smith’s, that illustrate our students’ successes.

“We are so proud that she is being rewarded for the fine example that she sets for Speed School students,” said Andrade. “To my knowledge, this is the first time any University of Louisville engineering student has received this national award."

Angela Cline, the assistant director of career development, worked with Smith as a student employee under her instruction. Like Andrade, she was equally impressed with Smith’s work ethic and great attitude, and found writing her scholarship recommendation a pleasure.

“Alyssa is a very bright, enthusiastic, focused and self-motivated young woman in her field of study,” said Cline. “We all agree that Alyssa has proven to be quite an asset as a student employee in the career development office.”

Smith attributes her motivations to her parents, who she credits with stimulating her interest in the field. She hopes that through her experiences and opportunities she can give back to the community, by giving a voice to underrepresented populations.

“I knew that I wanted to be someone who can add seats to the table for people that don’t have a seat. I think a lot of that is just being a minority in STEM, and both my parents are minorities in STEM. It’s a growing field,” said Smith. “My parents put me on a road to STEM. My siblings are looking at STEM.”

She will receive the award at an event in Chicago, August 24 and 25, where she will have an opportunity to meet with Jackson.