Profile: Merging Engineering and Policy on an Unconventional Path

October
,
2016

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Photo by John Farley

“I’m very passionate about interdisciplinary education,” says Jami Summey-Rice, an undergraduate chemical engineering student at the Univ. of Houston (UH). “The lack of interdisciplinary education at the university level is detrimental to us being able to solve societal problems.”

Summey-Rice places a lot of importance on broadening the scope of her knowledge across disciplines in an effort to create positive change. In 2012, after nearly a decade in sales management, she decided to commit to a full-time undergraduate program. Since then, she has held internships that span the breadth of chemical engineering — from chemicals production to public policy.

“Coming back to school means a lot of things,” she says. It’s a huge financial and time commitment, especially after starting a family, she states. “You value education differently. The money means more; the time means more.”

Summey-Rice admits that she was bored as a sales manager, and was drawn to the opportunities that chemical engineering offered. “I was ready for a new challenge,” she recalls. “Sales management is commission-only, you don’t get vacation, and you work nights, weekends, and holidays....

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