Professional opportunities and community amenities among reasons Purdue alumna chose to settle in Greater Lafayette
With a NASA fellowship among the many impressive entries on her résumé, Monique McClain had no shortage of career options once she completed her PhD in Purdue’s aeronautics and astronautics program in 2020.
She chose to remain a Boilermaker, with a new assistant professorship in mechanical engineering set to begin in August 2021. While the decision was complicated, her reasoning was somewhat simple.
“Part of it was having familiarity with the area, which was obviously a pro,” says McClain, who has lived in Lafayette since arriving as a Purdue graduate student in 2016. “The second part was knowing the housing market was pretty good here. I can actually afford a house and I don’t even need a faculty salary to do that.”
Even more compelling was the opportunity to continue her work at Purdue’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, the world’s largest academic propulsion lab.
“Zucrow is a very well-renowned lab and that’s very appealing to me. Those resources weren’t readily available at the other universities I was looking at, or at least not at the same scale,” McClain says. “And then we also have a new Purdue Energetics Research Center called PERC that Professor (Weinong) Chen is a part of, and that’s been new since I started here in 2016 as a grad student. It’s developed into something really awesome, and it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Those research opportunities might not have been enough to convince McClain to remain at Purdue if not for her increased comfort living in Greater Lafayette.
The San Diego native says her biggest adjustment after moving from California to Indiana was not the weather, but the people. At first, she was suspicious when a stranger would strike up a conversation at the grocery store or when a neighbor offered to help with a chore. After a few years as a Lafayette resident, McClain now appreciates the gesture when an acquaintance offers to loan her their lawnmower.
“People are more neighborly,” she says. “It’s just a little different because there’s more space here, there’s more time, so that’s a nice benefit compared to where I’m from. It’s also safer here. I used to be a lot more suspicious because it was like, ‘Oh, someone might try to steal something from me.’ It’s very different here.”
Another key factor was that she developed a reliable social circle and identified local activities that make living in the area more enjoyable. For instance, she enjoys cycling and found a number of excellent bike paths in the area that are utilized by Greater Lafayette’s active cycling community.
Because of the area’s overall appeal — affordability, attractive amenities and an outstanding career opportunity at Purdue — McClain elected to purchase a home in Lafayette in August 2020 and accepted her new position at the University.
“Over time, I realized there are more things to do here than I first realized,” McClain says. “Indy’s not that far away, so I go to Costco once a month or once every two months. And I definitely like the fall. It’s really nice here.
“It was kind of like, ‘OK, this is a good starting place for someone who’s just starting a career, has no retirement and also wants to work at a great university.’”
July 15, 2021