The math and mentoring maven

Name: Natalie Barrett
Major: Engineering education
Year: First-year Ph.D. student
Hometown: Miami, Florida

Degrees of greatness: Before coming to Purdue, Natalie earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Florida State University, a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from Indiana University. Although she loves to learn, she says the Ph.D. she is now pursuing is "my fourth and final degree."

Sharing her gifts: Natalie has a knack for tutoring and mentoring others, something she discovered when she was in elementary school. "I've been a math tutor since I was 8. I have always enjoyed math, and many of the kids I tutored were older than I was. You could say that my play dates were different!”

Impact, one student at a time: While an undergraduate at Florida State, she began a mentoring program with fellow members of the National Society of Black Engineers chapter. The goal was to improve the grades of the members. "We did things like have the older students give advice to younger students on which classes to take and how to get an A in a particular class. We also identified the weaknesses of each student and what their strategy should be to improve." Natalie said GPAs began to rise, as well as the morale and confidence of members — both mentors and those mentored. "We discovered that there are so many levels of help you can seek when you are struggling, so many things you can do before giving up."

Mentoring hits the workplace: Natalie served in various positions at Pratt and Whitney for eight years, where she also helped to start a mentoring program. Although she left the company before the program was fully implemented, she's proud of the fact that the program is now in place and has the potential to change the way employees view their careers.

Her vocation is also her avocation: "Mentoring is a hobby to me. I know I sound very boring, but many people actually find me very interesting!"

Big plans for the future: Natalie's dream is to become a mechanical engineering professor and eventually a dean. Right now, she is narrowing in on a research topic for her doctorate, which will likely focus on how students apply engineering concepts to solving technical problems.

By Kim Delker