Work—and Play—Help Launch Engineering Careers

2015 SAGE Award Winners
From left: SAGE advisor Aida Ghiaei, and fellowship winners Drew Clearfield, Kamyar Momeni, Bahareh Deljoo, Morad Behandish, Paul Wortman, and Associate Dean Mei Wei. (Photo by Christopher LaRosa)

Getting good grades in a good major at a good school are important steps to launching a successful business career, but a key component that shouldn’t be overlooked is the importance of social interaction.

Graduate students at UConn’s School of Engineering who are members of the Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE) live the mantra of the group’s mission statement: “to expand professional and social opportunities given them to better engage in community life.’’

Recently five of those SAGE members were given $3,000 scholarships for, in the words of Associate Dean Mei Wei, “the time and efforts put in to realize and recognize the importance of engaging in social activity.”

“Landing a job after you leave UConn,’’ said Wei, “involves so much more than how well you did in your classes. SAGE teaches the importance of being successful, how to interview, how to be practical, how to be engaging.’’

Added Aida Ghiaei, Director of Graduate Outreach & Diversity at the School of Engineering and SAGE’s advisor: “We have ongoing activities that all stress the same theme—the importance social interaction plays in professional development.’’

The scholarships, part of a $1 million bequest from former Electrical Engineering UConn Professor John Lof, were awarded to:

  • Morad Behandish, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering
  • Bahar Deljoo, a PhD student in materials science and engineering
  • Drew Clearfield, a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering
  • Paul Wortman, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering
  • Kamyar Momeni, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering

Lof joined the faculty at UConn in 1952, as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. As the next generation of computers were developed, he advised and assisted UConn in opening an engineering computer center. He was the director of the Computer Center and also taught courses in computer programming.

Wortman, who is a sixth-year graduate student, said he came to UConn “shy and quiet. I didn’t know a lot of people. SAGE has taught me the importance of interacting.’’

In the spirit of SAGE, the five recipients of the scholarships didn’t find out they were being singled out until, first, all of the SAGE members enjoyed an ice cream social hour. Then the names of the scholarship recipients were announced as their peers cheered and applauded.

The UConn Foundation is in the midst of its Transform Lives initiative that aims to double the amount of financial support, including merit and need-based scholarships that the foundation raises for the benefit of the UConn student body.

The Foundation recently reported it raised nearly $78 million in contributions and pledge commitments during fiscal year 2015, including $16.3 million for scholarship and student support.