When Zahra Parkar ’18 was mapping out her higher education plans, affordability, challenging coursework and engaging leadership opportunities were at the top of her list. Through Texas A&M University’s Engineering Academies and the Zachry Leadership Program, she found exactly what she needed.
“At the time I was heading to college, my family and I needed to find a way to get to school without breaking the bank account,” Parkar said. “Through the academies you’re able take courses at Blinn and at A&M, so I knew I would still have the full college experience and pay a fraction of the cost for a quality engineering degree.”
The Engineering Academies allow students to be co-enrolled in one of six locations, as well as Texas A&M, making them a Texas A&M engineering student. There are Engineering Academies at Austin Community College, Blinn-Brenham, Blinn-Bryan, El Centro College and Richland College, Houston Community College and Texas Southmost College.
By attending the Engineering Academy at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas, Parkar was able to save money, develop a network of classmates and take the same classes that general engineering students at Texas A&M were taking.
“One of the things I loved about the academy program was that you take classes with the same people throughout,” Parkar said. “When you do transition to A&M’s main campus, you'll already have a pretty stable foundation of friends and that gives you a support group for your time on campus and during the academies.”
Students can choose to stay co-enrolled in an academy for up to two years before completely transitioning to Texas A&M in College Station, or they can transition after just one year like Parkar, which she said was an easy process.
“It wasn't difficult for me and some of my friends to excel in classes here at A&M,” Parkar said. “There's this idea that students from the academies aren't as prepared to tackle classes at A&M and I think that goes back to the mindset that people think these academies are the lesser version of A&M and that isn’t true. You're getting the same exact courses as a co-enrolled student, but at a better price.”
Parkar is also a member of the first class of the Zachry Leadership Program, a five-semester program built through the partnership of Texas A&M and the Zachry Group to help develop leaders in engineering. The program begins during the students’ sophomore year and strives to teach them collaborative decision making, confidence and familiarity with business principles. While the program has been viewed by some as hyper-selective, Parkar believes that this misconception is just a reflection of the uniqueness of the program.
“The thing about ZLP [Zachry Leadership Program] is that it’s just different,” Parkar said. “They take students from all different spectrums of GPA. I also think the elitist perception comes from the intense application process, but they just want to know more about you as a person and if you're willing to be taught the information and leadership skills they are wanting to offer.”
Parkar is currently working in an internship this summer for the Reynolds & Reynolds corporation in Dayton, Ohio as a sales intern. She said she enjoys the competitive environment and daily customer interaction that a sales environment brings, and also feels her time in the Zachry Leadership Program has given her skills to be successful during her internship.
“With the Zachry Leadership Program I've learned what environments I'm most productive in, when I've hit my limit and how to work with people to get the best results,” Parkar said “They teach you how to be the best leader you can simply by bringing out what is already inside of you, and I appreciate all of the people who dedicated their time to get the ZLP [Zachry Leadership Program] up and running because I don't think I'd be as confident as I am today without their help.”
Invest in global scholarships and increase international experiences. The college aims to have 2,000 engineering students engage in an international experience each year by 2018. Scholarships can be endowed with a gift of $25,000 or more.