May 10, 2023
Industrial engineering grad: ‘Nowhere else in the country could I have had the extraordinary experience that I had here at Purdue’
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Julianna Hachenski excelled at practically every subject in elementary, middle and high school, from science and mathematics to computer science and Spanish, winning a number of awards. With seemingly unlimited options, the Saratoga Springs High School valedictorian in upstate New York was drawn to engineering.
But her future was not to study at one of the many Ivy League schools that were within a half-day’s drive from her hometown – even after being accepted at 10 colleges including Princeton, Cornell and a host of other Big Ten universities. Hachenski was bound to be a Boilermaker.
On the eve of this weekend’s 2023 Spring Commencement, confirming her giant leap as a Purdue University alum with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, Hachenski wouldn’t change a thing about her decision four years ago to attend this Big Ten university. And she’s convinced her time here has prepared her well as she launches her industrial engineering career this fall at Boston Consulting Group in Durham, North Carolina.
“Nowhere else in the country could I have had the extraordinary experience that I had here at Purdue. And if I was to do it all over again, I would make the exact same decision. I would do it the exact same way,” she says.
Many options = Purdue engineering
The oldest daughter of two Michigan State University engineering alumni, Hachenski initially explored computer science, software engineering and business. To test those interests, she took a computer science internship as a high school junior. While she enjoyed coding and problem-solving, however, she discovered a computer science career wasn’t in her DNA.
“By the time I started looking for colleges and what I wanted to do, I was torn between this idea of a background in business and being able to understand how companies think about problems, how finances come into play, how bringing things to market came into play, while also having this passion as an engineer for wanting to intimately understand how things work and how a system interacts on the technical side,” she says.
Visiting colleges throughout the East and Midwest, she intently examined the campus cultures where she would be challenged in her studies, have opportunities to engage with prospective employers and alumni, and – equally important – enjoy life outside the classroom. But where would she study? And where would she take her credentials as valedictorian of her high school class of 536 students and a diverse array of academic and extracurricular achievements?
During her campus visit, she was struck by the many possibilities, especially the buzz about Industrial Roundtable, the annual job fair organized by the Purdue Student Engineering Council that attracts over 400 companies and 12,000 students. She learned of internship opportunities, about alumni who returned to campus to visit with students, about industry seminars and other networking activities. Meeting with a sophomore industrial engineering student, she got a more personal glimpse of a fuller Purdue experience.
“Even though I wasn’t technically a part of it yet, I could see that Purdue students seemed excited to be here. They talked about their classes with such an interest and the fact that they got to work on group projects and attend sporting events,” she says. “There was so much more to the Purdue experience. That didn’t resonate for me at other college campuses.”
She was so convinced Purdue would be in her future that she bought a Boilermaker T-shirt and wore it to school the next week. “I showed up to my high school classes with my Purdue T-shirt, and my teachers and friends were shocked and said, ‘You can’t go to Purdue — you’ve been accepted at Princeton and Cornell,’” Hachenski recounts.
More than just an engineering track
In customizing her Purdue experience, she centered on academics in the rigorous engineering program but seasoned that with available social activities outside the classroom. Her choice to pursue industrial engineering crystallized. She loved how it blended the broad business worlds of integrated systems, engineering, information, technology, software, manufacturing and other concepts with that human element. Not to mention the career options.
Confirming that path, she landed four internships with three companies during her time at Purdue – General Mills, Land O’Lakes and The Walt Disney Co. – that provided her the value of 14 months of real-world experience. She gained insights in areas such as strategic sourcing, analysis, industry assessments, budget proposals, software purchasing, supply chain management and more.
“I just fell in love with the idea of being an industrial engineering student at Purdue. It ticked all those boxes on my list,” she says. “And I discovered that I loved focusing on supply chain.”
In between her classwork and maybe a few hours of sleep every night, Hachenski got her money’s worth in her pursuit to become a well-rounded Purdue graduate, serving in a number of roles in her extracurricular activities:
- Recruitment volunteer for the Women in Engineering Program, where she put to words her thoughts on what it’s like living on campus for future Boilermakers.
- Project manager at PurdueTHINK, offering counseling for campus organizations.
- Paint Crew and Ross-Ade Brigade member for student sections at basketball and football games.
- Ambassador for Admissions, where she staffed the Welcome Center and served as a weekly tour guide.
Alyssa Wilcox, senior vice president for partnerships and the Purdue president’s chief of staff, and her husband, Michael, assistant director of Purdue Extension, met Hachenski four years ago, when word traveled from her hometown that she was planning to be a Boilermaker. Michael’s family lives in Saratoga Springs, and he and Alyssa during a visit decided to meet her to answer any questions she might have.
“Michael and I reached out to Julianna and were immediately struck by her enthusiasm for Purdue and her drive for success. We exchanged contact information and let Julianna know that we would make ourselves available if she ever needed anything – a home away from home,” Alyssa says. Michael adds, “We didn’t hear from her because, come to find out, Purdue had become ‘home’ for her. As a Saratogian and a Purdue alumnus as well, I am extremely pleased and unsurprised that everything worked out swimmingly for Julianna.”
Challenges of time management
Still, the transition to the hectic academic culture of college from the bubble of high school was a major challenge for Hachenski. She points to lessons learned in improving her time management skills and how to weigh competing priorities. “I’ve always been all right at time management. But at Purdue, it kind of ballooned on this massive scale,” she says. “I needed to learn how to time-manage. Thankfully, I learned that very early as a freshman.”
She also gained an appreciation for the essential role communication plays for STEM-related majors – and Purdue’s COM 114 requirement for all engineering students. Hachenski can’t remember a week where she didn’t have to give, or at least prepare, a presentation for one of her classes, confirming why all graduates need to be comfortable in public speaking. “Communication is the most important skill that I’ve seen in industry and in my experience,” she says in offering advice to other Purdue students.
Finishing strong as a Boilermaker
Hachenski is not slowing down one bit, running hard through to the finish of her final hours as a Purdue undergraduate. “Yeah, it’s all good. It’s all going to get done,” she says. In the weeks leading up to graduation, she’s done three presentations, submitted four reports and had countless final project meetings with classmates.
“All of that together – the extracurriculars, the athletics, the community, the collaborative classes, the internships, the networking – is really what I found was the most incredible and the most special thing about Purdue,” she says. “With graduation coming up, that’s the amazing college experience that I got to have. And I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”
About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu.
Writer: Phillip Fiorini, firstname.lastname@example.org, 765-430-6189