Syracuse University is a 2018 recipient of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence grant, supporting diversity and inclusion in science education. The five-year, $1 million grant will fund the University’s Collaborative High-Impact Activities in Natural Science Education (CHANcE)…
Christina Tobias ’18: Building the Skills in Engineering and Rowing
Christina Tobias ’18 is sure of two things—she was born to row and become an engineer. In high school, her passion for math gave way to coding. Her time outside of class was spent competing with her rowing team. When it came time for college, she found her niche at Syracuse University.
Never one for rest, Tobias spent last summer participating in a Google app development program. This summer, she’ll be working for Microsoft. While she excels as a student athlete today, she has her mind on where she will apply her talents in the future.
Through and through, she is a shining example of a Syracuse engineer.
Q. What is life like as a student athlete?
A. We need to have good time management skills. No matter what major an athlete is, you’re working out all the time, usually two workouts every day. You also need to build in time to eat and do everything else that other people take for granted.
In engineering there is a lot of work, but if you are focused and want to be an athlete, you can be! It’s really busy, but fun. Something that is cool is that my team has been doing really well academically. Our team GPA average is above a 3.0. Half of our team averages a 3.7. Coaches like it when your academics match up with your athletics, and it’s especially important for my team.
Q: Why did you choose Syracuse University?
A; Initially, it was about finding an engineering school with rowing. I knew I wanted to be on the East Coast and see some snow. I’m from California, so I wanted something different.
However, for me, the people set Syracuse apart. Being a female athlete with a social personality, I’m not what people typically think of as your average engineer. Here at Syracuse, there are a lot of people that I can relate to.
Q. As a young women building a career in engineering, what do you make of the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields?
A. I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer, but I decided it was right for me in high school. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school in Silicon Valley. A lot of our parents were engineers. We were expected to be smart, try hard and excel in all subjects. But still I saw some very empowered, very intelligent girls shy away from math and science out of societal influences. They’d say they weren’t good at it, but I don’t know how they formed that opinion. I grew up in a house of all girls (I have three sisters). My dad was an engineer and he was very encouraging and helpful.
I’ve never experienced any big issues being female in my program, but I am one of the few in my class. That’s just how it is around the country. What I love about Syracuse is that everyone is extremely accepting and I don’t feel like I’m left out because I’m female. However, it’s important that we find ways to fix underrepresentation because we do need more females in the STEM fields.
Q. How would you define engineering for someone who’s unsure if it is for them?
A. If you have ever looked at something and want to know how it works, your mind is working like an engineer’s. If you think something would be cool, or vital for the world to have, and you want to gain the skills to be able to make it, then you should become an engineer.
Engineering gives you the knowledge of how to do things. It’s not necessarily about always knowing what to do. You learn how to structure your mind to solve problems and stay organized so you can find the best direction to go.
Q. What do you see yourself doing after graduation?
A. I want to do something that effects people positively. I would love to work with underdeveloped countries. For example, providing fresh water. That may not be the work of a programmer, but it is the work of an engineer.
At the same time, I could see myself going the startup direction, developing a product that would help people in the U.S. I could also end up at a tech company.
I’m keeping my options open, but I’m confident that I’m building the skills to be successful in any direction I choose.