Building Opportunity Together

Jessica Monroe (’12) walked into the office of Professor Paul Nowak, Ph.D. her senior year with a list of possibilities. She was considering applying to graduate schools and wanted to ask Nowak, her advisor in the School of Engineering, for a reference letter and to get his opinion of her selections.

“I had some state schools in Washington, Oregon and California,” Monroe recalled, “they were all ranked in the teens.”

Nowak looked at the list.

“This list is fine,” Monroe remembers him saying, “but you can do better.” He ripped up the list in front of her. “You should have more confidence in yourself,” he said, rewriting the list. On it, he wrote down four of the top-ranked schools for structural engineering.

Monroe took Nowak’s advice, along with the recommendation letter he provided and applied to the schools on his list. Not only did she get in, but she received full-ride scholarship offers to two. Now working as a structural engineer with KPFF Consulting Engineering of Seattle, Monroe is passionate about sharing the opportunities available in the STEM fields—particularly engineering.

“Most women, when they’re starting college, don’t necessarily think of STEM as a choice,” she said. “It may not be a fit for every girl, but it’s important for every girl to know she has the option to do it. Luckily, I’ve had amazing role models—engineers who are women, mothers and really creative—building skyscrapers, even!” Monroe helps to further her passion as a mentor for high school students through Seattle’s Architecture, Construction & Engineering (A.C.E.) program, which gives young men and women a hands-on introduction to these fields.

In addition to volunteering, she made it a priority, as soon as she finished her master’s degree, to give back in support of the undergraduate engineering labs at Gonzaga so that even more young women can discover and excel in the field she truly loves.

“I chose to support that because research on a resume makes for a better grad school applicant,” said Monroe. “I had a great opportunity to do research at GU and it helped me get into grad school.” Monroe worked with a classmate, Andrew Matsumoto (’12) and Dr. Sara Ganzerli on a “Flexural Bond Strength of Masonry Prisms” project. “Basically, we built a machine that ripped bricks apart to test the mortar,” she explained. That device is in use by current students in an engineering lab at GU.

As one of the many supporters of Gonzaga Will: The Campaign for Our Future, Monroe is ensuring that the academic innovation that leads to a strong community between students and professors can continue to be a key element of the Gonzaga experience, which is precisely what Gonzaga Will is about.

Learn more about how you can ensure these opportunities continue to be available.