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Think and Do

NC State graduates in red gowns

Leading Their Fields

Employers today are looking for more than a degree; they’re seeking rounded recruits who are ready to work. That’s why NC State gives students every opportunity to succeed, from undergraduate research and industry internships to service learning and ongoing career development.

Early this year, USA Today published its list of the highest-paying degrees of 2015. NC State is a leader in all the fields that top the list: engineering, computer science, math and sciences, business, and agriculture and natural resources.

Meet six new graduates who have already made those fields their own.

Nelessa Lewis

Paper Cachet

When Nelessa Lewis takes up her job as a process engineer at International Paper this June, she’ll be picking up where she left off last summer — and the summer before that.

Lewis scored the first of two internships with the company in her sophomore year, during one of International Paper’s regular talent-scouting visits to NC State’s campus. She spent a total of six months at its mill in Riegelwood taking part in paper machine trials and wastewater treatment studies, and she entered her senior year with a full-time position secured.

Pulp and paper is big business in North Carolina, but it was new to Lewis, whose family is originally from Guyana and moved to Raleigh from Queens, New York, when she was 8.

Her plans to become a chemical engineer changed after she earned a scholarship that exposed her to the world of paper science.

“I was automatically hooked,” Lewis said. “All of the classes are lab-based classes, so it’s all hands-on, you’re completely involved in the entire process. Everything you see on your internship is what you saw in the classroom.”

Lewis narrowed her focus to paper alone and never looked back. She credits her experiences at NC State — her industry training, her interview coaching, even the engineering summer camps she attended while still in high school — with helping her down this path.

“I’m prepared. I know everything I need to know. Here, it’s not just the thought, it’s not just the concept. It’s something that you actually go out and do.”

Daniel Alvey

Free-Range Education

It takes Daniel Alvey a while to list all the places his NC State career has led him: towns and cities across North Carolina; Florida and California for conferences; Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas for internships. To deepen his knowledge of global agriculture, he even toured southeast Asia — a far cry from his grandfather’s tobacco farm in Madison County.

This week, he graduates from NC State with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural science and agricultural education. Nine days later, he starts as a sales representative for Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company. He’s tasked with tending to all of the company’s accounts with Tyson Foods Inc. east of the Mississippi. That’s a lot of territory to cover, but Alvey is undaunted.

“I want to travel,” he said. “I want more of a challenge. I feel like I can reach what I’m capable of doing on this path.”

During his time as a state officer for the National FFA Organization, Alvey put his leadership skills to use from the mountains to the coast, encouraging high school students to pursue careers in agriculture. Later, his internships at NC State — with Bayer Crop Science as well as Elanco — opened his eyes to the impact he himself could have in the industry.

“My internship experience at NC State is the reason I am graduating college with a job,” said Alvey. “The university as a whole provides a network that allows you to accomplish anything you set your mind to.”

Vijayalakshmi Kasi

From Coimbatore to the Big Four

As a transfer student, Vijayalakshmi Kasiviswanathan had just two years to make the most of her NC State education. She jumped in with both feet. This summer, she’ll begin professional life as a risk assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s “Big Four” accounting and consulting firms.

Kasiviswanathan hails from Coimbatore, India, and came to the Triangle because of her father’s textiles business. That meant finding a university that would recognize the progress she had already made toward a B.S. in Business Administration. Although several local colleges accepted her, she ultimately chose NC State.

“They understood what I wanted and what program I did in India,” Kasiviswanathan said. “They were open to communicating with me when I had so many questions. I knew NC State would help me build a strong foundation.”

Kasiviswanathan’s professors encouraged her to switch her concentration to information technology and soak up every experience available to her — from the Global Village in Alexander Hall to the International Business Club to building a 3-D printer with three of her friends. She praises the Career Development Center and her support network at NC State for raising her confidence and readying her for her future career.

“Anything I did here was recognized,” said Kasiviswanathan. “It’s a small thing, but it really motivates me. So when I do something next time, I try to do more than I can. I wish I had more than two years to experience what NC State offers.”

Cori Krause

Math With a Mission

When she set out on her college search, Cori Krause was excited to see more of the world outside Raleigh — which meant the city’s universities were at the bottom of her list. A visit to the NC State campus changed that. Four years on, she’s finally headed farther afield, to Arlington, Virginia, and the Department of the Navy.

After graduation, Krause will be putting her major in mathematics to work as a cost analyst, helping the Navy to plan its projects and spend its resources wisely. It’s a dream opportunity for a civilian who once considered enlisting and has always been on the lookout for federal jobs.

An event put on by the Career Development Center at NC State alerted Krause to the government’s Pathways program for recent graduates. She also credits the university with broadening her horizons through the University Scholars Program and the events she attended as a College of Sciences Student Ambassador. In her first year at NC State, she resided in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Living and Learning Village.

“WISE provided me with countless resources,” said Krause. “A mentor, tutors, social and academic events, and some amazing friends. It was such a big asset to me, I decided to pass along my knowledge and become a mentor my sophomore year.”

NC State may have convinced Krause to spend four more years in Raleigh, but now she’s eager to put her skills to the test where it counts.

“Pure math is a lot more theoretical, whereas I like seeing how can we use all this knowledge,” said Krause. “Applying it to the real world, the problems we can solve — actually doing something more concrete.”

Anya Raspopovic

Peer-to-Peer Networking

Like her software developer dad, Anya Raspopovic always had a knack for math. Then a programming class at her high school in Cary showed her how she could apply that talent to solving problems.

“I was locked in on computer science from then,” she said.

After graduation, Raspopovic will start as an information technology engineer for Cisco Systems, right here in Raleigh. It’s the job and the company she wanted, and it’s just reward for her four years of dedication to NC State’s computer science community.

Like her friend Cori Krause, featured above, Raspopovic lived at the WISE village in her first year at NC State. And like Krause, she cherished the experience enough to return as a sophomore mentor. She also served as one of the inaugural Computer Science Student Ambassadors at NC State, encouraging others to pursue careers in the field.

“There are girls in WiCS [Women in Computer Science] who I talked to at our open house who are now in computer science, now involved in a club for it,” she said. “That’s a good paying-it-forward moment.”

Raspopovic is thankful for the opportunities she’s had at NC State, from being referred for an internship at SAS — by Ken Tate, her department’s director of development — to first approaching the Cisco booth at NC State’s annual ePartners Career Connection recruiting fair. But it’s the practical skills NC State gave her that she values the most.

“The education in itself is quality,” said Raspopovic. “It teaches you things that you actually need to be able to know. You get technical questions in interviews, and you have to be able to answer them. An NC State education gives you that knowledge.”

Roshane Williams

A Winning Mindset

Roshane Williams was the first in his family to head to college straight out of high school. Now he’s taking his electrical engineering degree from NC State to Research Triangle Park and IBM. There, he’ll work on the company’s Watson project — the computer system that famously won Jeopardy!

Williams’ family is from Jamaica, but he grew up in New York, first in the city and later upstate. One of six children, he has been inspired in part by the example of his older sister, Samantha, who went back to college to pursue a degree in English and is now working on her master’s.

Although Williams majored in electrical engineering, his extensive internship experience — including three terms at Blackberry and another at Siemens — have steered him more toward the software side. In preparation for his full-time job at IBM, he’s now learning Java and other programming languages, a strong example of the self-directed learning NC State instills.

“Employers know the challenges we go through,” Williams noted. “They know that we can learn what we need to learn to get the job done.”

In the longer term, he has ambitions to earn his Master of Business Administration and maybe even start his own company. Wherever he goes next, he knows he can rely on the skills and focus his time at NC State has taught him.

“Just to get through this program, you have to take yourself away from everything else and say, ‘okay, this is what I want to do, and this is what I want to accomplish,’” said Williams. “We actually had to learn how to solve problems. NC State gave me a mindset of how to solve problems.”