Lauren Wilkie is a Gold Duster, recent BMW Intern, woman engineer and first-generation college student. Did you know she’s also a Freeman Scholar who wants to help emphasize women in STEM? With BMW experience, Gold Duster energy and engineering skills, Wilkie is forging her own future. Learn more about her in this Q&A.
What is the most significant challenge you've faced and how are you working to overcome it?
I entered UNC Charlotte as a different major, but it didn’t speak to me. I then switched to engineering. I was hesitant to take a risk but dove in and found out I was good at it!
Can you tell us about the Freeman scholarship?
Funding for a four-year school is a challenge, so I had to work very hard for a scholarship and did earn a Freeman Scholarship. Now I am learning to address risks head on by taking courses and opportunities outside my comfort zone and sharing my experiences with other students.
Tell us about your internship with BMW.
I worked as an intern in purchasing and the supplier network with the BMW plant in Spartanburg. My role as a QMT focused on quality management. I identified issues in the plant (for example breakage), discussed with suppliers and negotiated who needs to address it. There’s a lot of problem solving in additive manufacturing, so there are a lot of issues to be addressed by engineers. There’s something different every day. I might be interested in pursuing this as a career. I like always having a new challenge for design and engineering; there’s always a new problem to solve.
What is it like being in the Gold Dusters?
I grew up competitively dancing. While in high school, I balanced AP classes and dancing five to seven days per week. Gold Dusters has continued my work ethic, helping me succeed. Dance is where I’m able to decompress. I also got to dance for the Duke game with our win over a Power 5 opponent! It is cool to represent different aspects of the University.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in STEM?
Girls, including me, tend to hesitate to push themselves because they’re scared. But it’s important to have the courage. Find the trust and confidence in yourself. Find out what you’re capable of.
Confidence is definitely a challenge to women students considering STEM. BMW has helped me understand I have what it takes. I had to learn to trust myself, learn that I can accomplish what’s needed to get through the tough curriculum while being in the middle of other programs. I’m much more capable than I thought. To younger high school girls who have doubts, I say please know you’re capable. Don’t be deferred away just because it’s not a woman-dominated field.