Former Student Adam Williams ’04 was recently profiled by the Bush School and in President Loftin’s weekly update for his recent accomplishments, which include being named 2012 Most Promising Engineer-Government in the Black Engineer of the Year awards. Adam graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and in 2007 with an master’s in International Affairs from the Bush School. Adam is a senior R&D systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, but he was at one time renowned as the president the TAMU Hip Hop Society and for holding the record as the longest resident of Lechner—he lived there one year as a freshman, one year as an SA, and then three years as an RA as a member of Lechner classes XII through XVI! Adam recently took some time to offer reflections on his time as an Honors student at Texas A&M.
How did you end up at Texas A&M?
Growing up, I had always enjoyed playing with Legos–the freedom to create, the problem-solving behind the construction of my epic Lego cities–that is what directed me toward engineering. I had thought about applying to out of state schools (Duke, Stanford, etc.), but something about my visits to College Station just drew me in. Once I applied, I was offered an academic scholarship and eventually was awarded a Terry Foundation Scholarship. Texas A&M’s high academic standards and deep sense of community are what drew me in, and TAMU Honors office’s dedication to helping talented students achieve their dreams is how I got there.
What are your favorite memories of Honors?
First, the friendships. Some of my greatest friends and deepest relationships were made during my time in TAMU’s Honors program (in fact, I’ve been in more than one wedding of friends that I’ve met through the Honors Program!).
Second, the academic challenges and opportunities provided through participating in the Honors program were incredible – and set the stage for where I am today (sitting in a room in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as the US Government project lead for a regional human capital development program to develop the next generation of decision-makers in Middle Eastern nuclear power programs).
Third, in a word-Lechner. Spending five years living in one place is bound to leave an indelible mark, and Lechner Hall – and it’s residents and my fellow staff members – have left memories that I will always remember.
The SAs (Sophomore Advisors) my freshman year designed Lechner’s first “Maroon Out” t-shirts. These were some pretty sweet shirts! I was walking with my friends near Simpson Drill Field on the way to game one Saturday morning when I heard someone yelling at me from behind. I ignored it until a gentleman ran up to me and out of breath said, “Where did you get that shirt?” I told him that it was only sold within Lechner and apologized and tried to continue on to the game. He called after me, “well, my wife was in one of the first classes of Lechner Hall and she would LOVE that shirt! How much for the one you’re wearing?” So, I sold the shirt off my back because the spouse of former Lechner resident had heard about how special the community is in that residence hall. In addition to being a hilarious story, this story symbolizes the most important aspect of TAMU’s Honors Program – it’s community.
In what aspects of the Honors Program did you participate?
As many as possible! I graduated with both University and Foundation Honors distinctions. I completed two semesters of Honors Level undergraduate research. I took special topics honors courses in Globalization and Introduction to Hip Hop Culture. I was an institutional nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship Program and a national semi-finalist for the Harry S Truman National Scholarship. Though not officially selected as a University Scholar, I was able to participate in the University Scholar Seminars every semester throughout the remainder of my undergraduate career. So, likely to the chagrin of many at the time, I was pretty much a fixture in Honors Program and a frequent visitor in the Honors Office!
How did your internship experience shape your career path?
My time in DC greatly shaped my career path as it opened my eyes to many different avenues and mechanisms currently available that were tackling my particular area of interest (nuclear nonproliferation). While I didn’t participate in the Public Policy Internship Program, I spent lots of time with students who did make it to DC through this program. So, I HIGHLY recommend getting to DC if you are at all interested in a career in public service. Summers spent in DC are invaluable in the professional experience you gain and the number of contacts you can make.
What advice can you offer Honors students as they look forward to an uncertain future?
I would have to simply say: “Don’t make yourself one-dimensional.” Whatever your major is, take opportunities to delve into topics/areas that are completely different and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the Honors Program give you to do just that. If I had not added an English Minor to my Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree program, I would not have gotten my first big internship in DC that helped launched my current career.
I also find it incredibly stress-relieving to allow your brain to work on a topic that is vastly different that your academic emphasis. Reading for my African American Literature class or special topics Introduction to Hip Hop Culture class my senior year often saved my sanity as I was juggling senior level engineering classes and senior design. Making yourself multi-dimensional not only makes you more attractive to potential graduate programs and employers, but it also exposes you to new arenas and avenues through which to pursue your dreams.
Any closing thoughts?
Take advantage of the opportunities available to you, don’t be afraid to try something new or different, and get ready for big things to come! For those students considering the Honors Program, I simply want to say – don’t be afraid of something that seems too hard, too difficult, too challenging. The Honors Program has been built on students just like you – tentative, maybe even hesitant at first – but all of us navigated the challenges and turned them from reasons to being scared to opportunities to excel.