Fariha Rafiq

2017 A Distinct Problem Solver


What makes you a Difference Maker?

I am a Difference Maker because I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to do something that people don’t expect of me; especially something that impacts others in a positive way. I think just being a student and sitting in lectures does not define learning, learning in a classroom is just a small part of the university experience. I want to be able to apply what I learn in a classroom but this does not mean that if I’m an engineering student I should only think of applying my engineering knowledge. It is important to apply the leadership and interpersonal skills that you learn while working with peers. As a student I got a chance to try out many different experiences, each very different from the other. I was a volunteer at school events like the Wayne County Science Olympiad hosted on campus, as well as a research assistant in the summer of my freshman year helping my chemistry professor prepare for a presentation for a regional conference. I also participated in work-study as a computer lab proctor, was a teaching assistant for one of the engineering courses prior to having a chance to take it myself, participated in the student co-op at DTE Energy, and was an elementary school English teacher in South Korea.

Campus Achievements:

I received the Adnan Aswad transfer scholarship award and the Maize and Blue Scholarship. I was also awarded the Manufacturing Engineering Honors Scholar award in 2014. I have been on the Dean’s List every semester since I started as a student in Fall 2011. I am a member of a few on campus student organizations, including society for women engineers, Pakistani student association, and Alpha Pi Mu, which is the industrial engineering honor society. As a sophomore I felt that there was something missing on campus and started a student organization called the Asian Entertainment Club, dedicated to students like me who enjoyed music, films, dramas, and more from Korea, Japan, China, India, etc.

Leadership Experiences:

I have taken leadership in most classroom projects, some of which include the Introduction to Engineering course (ENGR 100) project, which involved the creation of a part of the Rube Goldberg machine as a team of four. My group was successful in creating the only portion of the machine that did not require any intervention during the final run. Recently, I was the team leader for my Simulations course project that consisted of working with international students from Brazil and China. We worked together to simulate an internal medicine clinic to improve patient service by reducing wait times. Off campus I had the opportunity to take lead on multiple projects as a co-op at DTE energy, one of which involved tracking the progression of an expansion project. We created a visual aid to model the system and presented the data clearly for supervisors and managers. Additionally, for a year I worked as an after school native English teacher at an elementary school in Incheon, South Korea. I worked with 1st to 6th grade students who understood very little English, preparing independent lessons and managing the classroom without any assistance.

What is your Dream Career?

My dream career would be something that requires me to go off on my own and learn, something that challenges me and makes me change the way I work. I would like a career that allows me to grow every day, gain more knowledge, and provides a dynamic environment. Within this environment I could communicate with others from different disciplines and learn from them while sharing my knowledge, skills and expertise. My dream job would be to work in an interdisciplinary team of a diverse group of people from all different areas, not just engineering but also those from finance, marketing, design, etc.

What was a Defining Moment at UM-Dearborn

During my second year as an engineering student I worked as a computer lab proctor in the college of engineering. While there I was asked to teach a lab for an industrial engineering course. This was a course I had not yet taken; truthfully I did not know much about the class at all. My supervisor at work gave me a print out of a short tutorial on working with computer aided design software to design a facility. I looked through it and went step by step, taking a few minutes to search for help when I ran into issues. I spent a lot of time troubleshooting, as this was my first time working in the particular module even though I did have experience using the software for a different course. Once I had gone through the tutorial I spoke with my supervisor, who introduced me to the professor, and we arranged for a short lab session for the class in the following week. Just thinking about standing in front of the class made me nervous. These students were my peers, but knowing they had been taking this course for more than two months and would be more familiar with the terminology made me nervous and afraid to make mistakes. I became prepared and as the day came, I felt less nervous. The group was very attentive and worked with me as I frequently checked to make sure everyone was following along. As I finished the session and saw that students were beginning to use what they had learned to design on their own I felt relieved and proud of myself. Though this was the only session I was able to teach, I was sure everyone gained something out of the short 40-minute session. This moment changed the way I felt about taking on challenges and trying out something different, and made me who I am today.