Sometimes, you need not look any further than your own backyard to see your future. For Vaughn College senior Samia Oishi ’21, her love of engineering and her family’s tradition of growing their own food were the driving forces that motivated her to pursue a degree in mechatronic engineering and a career in renewable energy.
Born in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Oishi’s family moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was two years old. For as long as she can remember, Oishi said her parents always grew their own fruits and vegetables in their garden in Brooklyn. “I didn’t realize it then, but our garden was my first taste of learning about sustainable energy.”
Throughout her school days, Oishi said she always enjoyed science, but it wasn’t until she joined the robotics team in high school that she became hooked. “I joined the robotics team just for fun,” she said. “I didn’t know much about it at the time. Little did I know how it would put me on a path to Vaughn College.” She explained how being part of a team was a great learning experience. In her sophomore year in high school, Oishi went on to become the co-captain of the team—a position she maintained until graduation.
During her senior year, Oishi and her friend decided to attend a college fair at her high school. “I happened to meet an admissions adviser from Vaughn while at the college fair,” she explained. “When I heard about the mechatronic engineering program, I knew immediately it was the program for me. That day changed my life.”
In 2017, Oishi enrolled at Vaughn. She joined a learning community of a group of students who shared the same interests and schedules. “Joining the learning community was a wonderful experience,” she said. “Vaughn is an amazing college. The small class sizes, wonderful staff of professors and student community make going to college feel like my home away from home.”
Oishi landed an internship at Kinetic Communities Consulting, a New York Minority and Women-owned Benefit Corporation that works with utilities and government agencies to help diverse New York communities adapt to solar and sustainable energy. “My role there plays a major part of who I am and where I’m striving to be in the future,” said Oishi. “We educate low-income families about the importance of solar energy and show them how to use and install it. It’s all about helping people make their lives better.”
This past summer, Oishi’s mentor at the internship recommended she apply for an exclusive fellowship at Woman of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE), a national non-profit organization dedicated to building a diverse workforce for the success of global sustainable energy. The application process was rigorous, but Oishi said it was well worth the effort. In addition to submitting her résumé and cover letter, the process required a letter of recommendation, written essay and a telephone interview. Of numerous applicants across the country, WRISE only accepts six candidates for the prestigious fellowship position. “I was thrilled to learn that I was selected to be a 2020 solar power fellow for WRISE,” she said excitedly. For the past four months, Oishi has been networking with other members of the fellowship and learning about the renewable energy industry. “It’s been an amazing experience and extremely beneficial for a student like me, who will be entering the workforce next year. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity. From fellows to friends, it’s all about making connections.”
Looking to the future
With a passionate heart, Oishi stated she is excited to pursue a career in the renewable energy industry. With only one semester to go, she explains how her degree in mechatronic engineering will give her a competitive edge in the field. “Automation already exists in the industry,” Oishi said. “My knowledge of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering will position me favorably for the workforce.”
Harvesting her heritage
At the end of the day, Oishi says she thanks her parents for instilling in her a love for their country and traditions that are deeply rooted in her heritage. “Planting a garden is so much more than watching your food grow. It’s all about the pride in harvesting the food and sharing it with those who need it most. I always wanted to pursue a career to help the world. I’m grateful to Vaughn for helping me get there.”