What's Your Story?
Posted: August 9, 2012
Selected as an Honors Fellow. Check. Voted "Leader of the Pack" for 2011. Yep. Park Scholar. True. Honors seminar instructor. Definitely. Conducting research this summer in China. Yes.
Visionary rollercoaster designer?
For Michelle Phillips, a sophomore Honors Village student living in Becton Hall, the first five of those descriptions are absolutely true. As for that last one? Well, it's still to come – just wait and see.
Made to Mentor
Last year, Michelle was chosen as an Honors Fellow due to her ability to connect with residents and successfully mentor incoming freshmen. It's a skill that came naturally to her because she could relate to transition issues residents face when arriving on campus for the first time.
"It's really neat to be able to pay forward what my mentors did for me during my freshman year," she said. "I know when I first came to campus, I thought, 'Wow, NC State is larger than my entire hometown!'"
Michelle alleviated her own transition issues by diving into campus programs and activities headfirst.
"For any freshman considering living on campus, I would encourage them to get involved, and get involved quickly," she said. "It's so much easier to make NC State your home once you've got your roots settled. For me, I'm rooted in the Honors Village, and my hall is like my family – we do everything together, and they represent my home base. So I recommend finding your own home base, and figuring out a way to turn a 30,000-person school into one comprised of a couple hundred."
Engineering a Future
One of Michelle's most personally meaningful accolades was being designated "Leader Of The Pack" and getting introduced in front of a raucous, stadium-stuffed homecoming football game crowd. In addition to being honored by the recognition, the engineering major is thrilled to, thanks in part to being voted the winner, be able to afford to embark on a service-learning trip to China this summer.
"It's an opportunity that encompasses everything I'm looking for – a combination of Study Abroad and a hands-on internship," she said of the six-week program. "We'll be working with a Chinese branch of the Caterpillar equipment manufacturer, teaming up with international students to design a project for the company."
Design and engineering is something Michelle has been interested in since her childhood, when she built empires out of Legos.
"I was fascinated with the idea of turning all these random pieces into something really cool," she said. "I love engineering because it's a tangible application of a building skill."
Another passion, along with design and engineering, emerged from Michelle's childhood – rollercoasters.
"I'm really passionate about rollercoasters," she said, "but not just the basic steel-built variety – I'm interested in the rollercoaster as an experience."
That passion was sparked at a Myrtle Beach-based amusement park, where Michelle first took a spin on a – of all surprising combinations – Led Zeppelin-themed coaster.
"It was absolutely incredible," she fondly recalled. "They found a way to turn the rollercoaster ride into a Led Zeppelin concert."
Now, years later, the mighty Zeppelin coaster is nevermore, but it's lightning bolt of inspiration that will no doubt carry on in Michelle's future, sure-to-be-innovative designs when she realizes her dream of starting a rollercoaster design firm.
But the question remains: Will she one day resurrect the legendary Led Zeppelin coaster for a new generation of amusement park enthusiasts?
"Oh, yeah," she said, laughing. "That would be so amazing!"
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