“I’m not your typical college student,” says Mariah Harvey. “I have big responsibilities and a family to care for.”
Harvey, 38, is now a proud graduate of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture’s mechanical engineering program at Washington State University (WSU) Everett. Before earning her degree, she served for seven years in the U.S. Navy, largely working in nuclear power.
“Even though I retired from active duty in 2007, I went right back to work for the Navy as a civilian until I started going to college. Pretty much my entire adult life has been spent working for the Navy in one capacity or another,” she said. “This has really been my transition from the military back into the civilian world, and I think without Everett Community College (EvCC) and WSU Everett I would have had a much harder time transitioning.”
Transitioning to college
It was not easy coming back to school after so many years, Harvey said, but the work ethic and training she obtained from the Navy also helped with her transition to civilian life.
“WSU Everett and EvCC really helped me get to that point where I feel like I can be successful in a civilian job,” she said.
Now she tells veterans looking to go back to school to start exploring their options early. “Seek out the Veteran Centers at your local community college. They will help you explore your options and use your SMART or Joint Service transcripts to help you fulfill some of the common core classes,” she said.
The WSU Everett advantage
“Honestly, WSU Everett was the only school I applied to and if I didn’t get in last year, then I would have applied again this year because I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” she said. “This was the right choice. It is 25 minutes from home and it is an area I know. It was the right place to go and the right way to do it.”
“Thanks to the size of the mechanical engineering program and the closeness of students at Everett, I can call up one of my classmates and ask them to take notes for me if I am going to miss class due to my disability, or because I need to be there for my daughter,” she said. “There are 30 of us in the class and we can get all of the help we need if we ask for it. Faculty or fellow students are always willing to help you if you don’t understand.”
Starting a promising new career
While attending the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference in 2016 Harvey caught the eyes of Bechtel, an engineering company that was looking to hire a summer intern. With her background in nuclear power, good grades and experience at WSU Everett, she got an on-the-spot interview.
“By the time I left the SWE conference I had an internship, and by the time I left my internship I had a job,” she said. After her 10-week summer internship, Harvey was offered the job in Richland at the Bechtel Hanford site verification plant where nuclear waste is turned into glass.