By Tracy Correa Lopez
FRESNO — Krista Miguel walked into a meeting room at Fresno State today (May 24) prepared to speak to a local TV reporter about student involvement in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Instead, she walked into room full of cameras and people, including her parents.
After Miguel’s initial shock wore off, Anna Brooks, PG&E’s Central Valley government relations manager, handed her an oversized check and delivered the surprise news: She was the winner of a PG&E Better Together Scholarship, worth up to $20,000 a year.
“That is such a big number, I can’t even think about it,” said Miguel, as she faced several cameras.
The 21-year-old Miguel is studying electrical engineering and will enter her senior year at Fresno State next year. Raised in Fresno, she will be the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree and plans to attend graduate school. She also interned with PG&E last summer.
Her parents helped keep the scholarship win a secret — which wasn’t easy, said dad Andrew Miguel. He said he worried more about his wife spilling the beans because she can’t keep secrets from her daughter.
“It wasn’t hard, because I knew this was special,” said Laurie Miguel, Krista’s mom.
The annual Better Together Scholarships are renewable for five years. The scholarships are awarded to 10 students based on a combined demonstration of community leadership, personal triumph, financial need and academic achievement. The scholarships are for college students to complete their undergraduate studies in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs.
Ever since his daughter was in high school, she wanted to be an engineer, said Miguel’s father, who is a fire prevention engineer.
Wants to lead engineers
However, Miguel said she doesn’t just want to be an engineer — she wants to work as a manager overseeing a team of engineers.
“I really enjoy the leadership side of engineering, and to do that, you have to understand the work of the engineers,” she said.
That ambitious attitude doesn’t surprise Ram Nunna, dean of the Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State.
“Krista is very passionate. She works very hard,” said Nunna, who has now witnessed three of his students win the annual PG&E scholarships.
Described as an over-achiever, Miguel will have completed three internships by the end of the summer. She is packing her bags for Texas today to leave for her third internship, this one at General Electric. In addition to her internship at PG&E, she also completed one at Toyota.
Miguel said she learned so much during her 13-week internship at PG&E last year because she got to do real engineering work.
“I was an intern getting actual, real projects that would have had to be assigned to an engineer,” she said.
For example, she worked with data to see if all of the components in a substation were able to handle the load by a transformer.
Commended for work ethic, leadership skills
In a letter of recommendation, PG&E’s Matthew Sayers, substation engineer in Clovis, wrote that Miguel “thrived on the fact that she was doing real engineering work” and commended her work ethic and leadership skills.
Miguel knows that she will be entering a male-dominated field but welcomes the opportunity to help balance the gender gap.
She also said the scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time.
“This past year has been pretty stressful, every month sitting there trying to figure out how to pay for things,” said Miguel, who lives on her own and works part-time at the university as a study facilitator.
Her upcoming senior year, she will carry 16 units and said it would be nice to not have to carry a part-time job. She also wants to devote more time to the Society of Women Engineers as she takes over as president of the Fresno State chapter.
Since the program’s inception in 2012, the PG&E Better Together Scholarship program has committed nearly $4 million in scholarships.
In addition to the 10 $20,000 awards, an additional 90 program finalists will receive $2,000 toward their studies to cover undergraduate education expenses for selected high school seniors, or college, university or vocational-technical students to complete their higher education paths.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at Tracy.Correa@pge.com