October 09, 2018

When Century College alum Sara Sargent was returning to school as an adult student, she knew she wanted to pursue an electrical engineering degree. ”I called the University of Minnesota and asked which schools would be good to transfer from for engineering and Century College was one of the suggestions,” Sara remembers. “The cost of tuition was much lower, and that was important because I was a returning student with a mortgage and would only maintain a part-time job during the school year. The smaller class sizes were very attractive as well.”

Mathematics Resource Center Made a Difference

Although Sara knew she wanted to be an engineer, there was one subject that worried her the most–she hated math in high school. Fortunately, Sara found the help she needed at the Mathematics Resource Center. ”My professor was excellent, encouraging and organized. Her expectations as well as requirements for success were very clear,” Sara remembers. “I went to the Math Center after every class, where I spent a couple hours on homework and getting plenty of help from the student tutors. I completed that class with an A+.” 

The following fall, Sara became a math tutor. “I loved helping students see math problems in different ways and adjusting to their learning styles,” Sara says, “As a math tutor I had more practice than most students, and because of that, I earned an A in almost every math class I took, all the way through Calculus 4.” Her hard work paid off–Sara was selected by the Math Department as the “Outstanding Math Student of the Year”. 

Small Class Sizes Contribute to Student Involvement

Working in smaller engineering classes made a huge difference in Sara’s educational experience at Century College, too.  “Engineering students tended to be more involved in extracurricular projects,” Sara notes. “Because we shared a space daily, we convinced each other to join new projects. Having the entire space to the engineering students meant you felt safe to be yourself, ask questions, and it facilitated working together.”

“At Century College, I was the president of the Century College rocket team and then the Century College Engineering Club,” Sara says, “Both of these positions gave me exceptional project management experience leading a team of technical people. And, through my challenging engineering classes, I learned the true value of teamwork and collaboration.”

Appreciating Diversity

During her time at Century College, Sara got to know many students from other places and backgrounds. “This was the first time I really got know students who came here from different countries, mostly African countries. We had lots of conversations about the differences between their home countries and Minnesota, and as I listened to their stories about why they moved here and what they had to overcome–including learning a second language, coming to college without financial support (such as FAFSA), and without family support, thousands of miles away from their homelands–I realized that I had no excuse to give up. They made me appreciate my own situation.”

Work-Life Skills

Sara transferred to the University of St. Thomas and graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. At VSI Labs, she works in business development, marketing, sales, project and program management, manages the internship program, and manages the logistics for the company’s conference demonstrations. “When you work in an industry that requires the collaboration of the big car manufacturers, tech giants, tech startups, infrastructure and regulation across the globe, it can feel daunting. Having gained the confidence and work ethic at Century College gives me what I need to take on these big challenges,” Sara adds.

“For my role in business development, I have to be bold and have confidence when meeting or proposing deals with executives from the biggest companies in the industry. I have to be a problem solver to make deals work, manage conference and demonstration logistics, and help with lab projects. I have to be a strong and organized leader and communicator when being a project manager for technology assessments. I have to always be prepared to communicate technical information with technical and non technical coworkers, clients and organizations. I also travel and work with people from all over the world, which requires me to be comfortable and aware of cultural differences. I gained experience in all of those skills at Century College.”

“At Century College, I gained skills in technical leadership, the confidence knowing that if I work hard I can take on anything, and the ability to constantly feel gratitude for what I have.”

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