Aerospace engineering major Ciara Jones ’20 is taking her talent to the friendly skies.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ciara Jones ’20: I am in my second year of college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration. I am originally from Richlands, North Carolina and an alumni of Richlands High School. My name is pronounced SEE-R-UH, although I’ve been called Sierra, Clara, and numerous other abstract names. Fun fact, I was going to be named Sierra, but my aunt thought it would be best to combine my mother’s name, Cecelia, and my father’s name, Ranod, to create the combination that is me. I am most passionate about airplanes, even though I had not been in one until May 2017 and, in retrospect, I feel like I have been missing out on the excitement of being thousands of feet in the air and not knowing how. On one hand I had a huge fear of being more than two feet in the air, but on the other hand I was fascinated about how planes can stay in the upper part of the troposphere or stratosphere for such long periods of time. Thus my interest in aerospace engineering grew more and more as I continued to pursue it throughout high school and college. In college, I discovered that my biggest and brightest dream in this world is to become the owner of an airport that consists of a new airline that I’d been a part of starting up. All of this, of course, built on a ground breaking innovation to current airplanes that I invested my first three years of work on. As you can see I have my sights set on the big prize. If I can get there or not is determined by my willingness to learn and grow through NC State. My mom always said that, “You can be anything you want, as long as you work hard and never give up.” She dug this phrase into my brain until I actually believed it. And eventually, I started forming this huge dream and remembering each and every day that anything is possible.
If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?
A shy ball of energy.
How would you describe your life as an NC State student?
I have been at NC State for one whole year! And by one year, I mean fall, spring, and both summer sessions. You can say I’ve had a busy, yet exciting year. During the regular semesters, I lived in the WISE Village on the west side of campus. WISE stands for Women in Science and Engineering and they hold a lot of events that are created to empower women who are pursuing male-dominant fields. WISE has shown me that many more females are struggling with being the minority in most of their degree-specified classes and the program finds ways to help us confide in each other and focus on what is more important, our determination to strive for our goals.
Growing up in a small town, not many people wanted to leave their close friends or family because it was just too hard. I had the same issue, but I knew what I wanted in life and NC State was on my list. What I didn’t know was that China was on my list. I went to the Study Abroad fair and saw all of the amazing places, like Greece, Argentina, and Australia, but those programs had nothing to do with engineering and I was on the brink of giving up. Before exiting, I saw the another Goodnight Scholar, Betsy Murphy, and the director for the China: Engineering, STS, and International Relations trip, Dr. Clifford Griffin. They explained that this would be an exciting educational experience and some people that I have previously connected with would be joining me, and that was all it took. Next thing I knew, I was applying to get my first passport and purchasing my first plane ticket. Two months later, I was on the plane and taking off onto a brand new journey.
Looking back at my experience, all I can say is, China was amazing! I was able to get breakfast and lunch for less than $4 and the food was mesmerizing. I already miss it! The classes were fast-paced as they would be at NC State, but they were fun and project filled with plenty of time to explore the country. We visited tea plantations, the Great Wall of China, the TV Tower and many more popular spots. We all came to this new and terrifying country 26 different individuals and came back as “Hangzhou Homies.”
Lastly, I have made a plethora of little families through NC State because I was taught by a special program to escape my shy shell. My general group of friends are from the Goodnight Scholars Summer Retreat for the Class of 2020. We go to various Goodnight events to build our character and personalities and to help us pursue our careers. From these experiences, we have learned that we will not only be together for the next three years, but for the rest of our lives. I do not know what I would do without these people in my life pushing me every day throughout the school year to study, eat better, and take care of myself overall. I value the time I spend with my beloved friends that I have the pleasure of calling my Goodnight family.
Is there a particular accomplishment you’ve made at NC State that fills you with pride?
In China, we were able to create a design to apply a lightening detector to various Caterpillar cabs. We visited a Caterpillar plant in Wujiang, watched presentations about the company, and gained insight on where to place the detector for the best accessibility for the user. We spent weeks planning for our final presentation to the employees of Caterpillar and ran through tons of ideas in such a short time frame. I also was able to work in a group with students who lived and studied at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. We had many differences and language barriers, but worked through it and made the best product we could for our users. We went through a group critical analysis and reviewed our mistakes and remade our presentation to make it represent the amount of work and dedication we put towards improving user’s safety while working outside. We also received a certificate from the company congratulating our work for their customers. Although they may never use our item, we were able to gain experience of working in a team and solving real-life problems.
I have made so many friends and connections through [the Goodnight Scholars Program], I cannot believe it.
What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?
Graduating NC State is so far away for me, but I know that the years will fly by. I have done so much in my first year and have many more experiences to look forward to. As many of my peers know, I am not an avid public speaker, but they have also informed me that I have improved over the year. Before I graduate, I’d like to be comfortable with speaking in front of a larger crowd and walk away feeling confident about my speech. I realize that this is a distinctive experience, but it means the most to me. Being at NC State, I have been exposed to so many excellent public speakers and discovered that many careers will be looking for someone who can propose ideas or speak about their job to prospective employees and I need to be prepared.
Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.
I don’t want to say that the Goodnight Scholars Program is the best thing that could have possibly happened to me because it is so typical, but it’s also so true! I have made many friends and connections through this Program, I cannot believe it. I am just a sophomore, so the beginning of my experience is still intact. It all started with the Finalist Interview Day where we had an amazing day at Hunt Library filled with knowledge on being a Goodnight Scholar, a hearty lunch, and my mom shaking my leg when she found out the scholarship money had increased. All day my nerves kicked in and blood rushed to my brains because I was surrounded by amazing individuals who had achieved so much in their lives already. The Goodnight Scholars Pro Staff and volunteers from different aspects of the Goodnight community were exciting and honest throughout the entire day. It made me feel at home already, and I was excited for the experiences ahead of me.
As a first-year scholar, we were required to have a Goodnight Mentor for six weeks to help adjust to college life. My mentor was Asa Augustin and he gave me insight on clubs that I might be interested in based on my major, interests, race, and ethnicity. And all throughout the six weeks he gave me advice on my classes, social events, and anything I needed to succeed. After the six weeks he still offered his help. Knowing that I had someone in my corner who has just been through these tough classes was just enough to push through my first-year. My mentor-mentee experience also helped me apply to become a mentor for the following year because I feel I now have the tools to provide younger students with what is necessary to succeed in their first-year.
Any unforgettable moments thus far from your time in the Goodnight Scholars community?
My most unforgettable memory is when I heard Dr. Goodnight speak in-person for the first time. We were all gathered around our tables at the All Goodnight Meeting, eating good food as always, meeting new people, and watching amazing performances from our peers. After all of the excitement, Dr. Goodnight was about join the stage. He was taller than I expected and looked as if public speaking was second nature. His speech was short and simple. He was the biggest celebrity to me and to see him speak for just a second would be enough. I thought I would never see him again because a man like that surely did not have time for struggling college students, yet he is more involved than I ever expected. He provides us with tours at SAS Institute, speaks at various events, and much more. This memory created my first impression on Dr. Jim Goodnight as a person, and I’ll never forget how much time he invests in us.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
Being a Goodnight Scholar, to me, means to give your all in everything you do. It means to be bold and take action to make a change in this world. It means you have absolutely no issue helping others within your grasp. Being a Goodnight Scholar means that someone believes in you and the only thing stopping you from anything great is your own fear.
Where do you picture yourself after graduation?
After graduation, I would like to work at an aerospace company like Boeing, Airbus or Raytheon while still continuing research on improving the average commercial planes lift-off and landing procedures. While working, I would like to pursue my master’s degree online through NC State. I would also like to prepare to become a professional engineer after four years of working and move up in whichever company that chooses to pursue me and my ambitions.
Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program