Goodnight Spotlight: Michael Cavenaugh

Dunn native Michael Cavenaugh’s life is defined by many “firsts” including the first in his family to major in STEM and the one of the first members of the Goodnight Scholars Transfer Program.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michael Cavenaugh Transfer Class of 2019: Before I became a student at NC State, I spent most of my life in Sampson County, the second largest county in the state. I was raised in the northern district of Plain View, and I consider the city of Dunn as my hometown. Sampson County is very rural and is one of the leading agricultural counties in the state. My grandfather and many of his descendants before him were farmers. My older brother and myself will be the first STEM majors in our family, as he is pursuing his graduate degree in medical physics at East Carolina University and I am majoring in civil engineering here at NC State University. Most would probably think of me as the epitome of a non-traditional college student. I am 25 years old, I have a daughter and fianceé, I worked at a law firm for almost three years, and I have completed Basic Law Enforcement training because there was a time when I had full intentions on becoming a police officer. It can be challenging at times as a non-traditional college student managing my time between school and family. Nevertheless I embrace this challenge because I am here to ultimately give my family a promising future. My daughter and my fianceé are my primary motivation, and my brother is a truly inspirational role model. When I am not studying, I enjoy playing the occasional video game and spending time with my family and friends.

If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?

I am encouraging, ambitious, and always willing to learn something new.

How would you describe your life as an NC State student?

My life as an NC State student has been very busy and enjoyable. I have a new understanding for multi-tasking as I manage between student life and parent life. I have met many new friends within the civil engineering curriculum that come from diverse cultures. I enjoy group studying with them because we always find a way to build off each other’s knowledge. Both D.H. Hill and Hunt libraries have both been a huge part of my life as an NC State student. There are so many places to study there and I enjoy trying the different computers and technology every time I go. Hunt Library, particularly, is so aesthetically pleasing that I find myself studying there when I want to surround myself with a relaxing environment.

When I am not studying, I enjoy spending time with my new friends. I like walking around parts of the campus that I have never been, but I especially enjoy trying new foods. One of my closest friends is Chinese and he has shown me several different Chinese restaurants around campus. I have tried many dishes that are native to his culture and he has even showed me how to use chopsticks! I think my favorite part of being an NC State student is that I am going to school with such a diverse and bright group of students and it feels like I can see the world without leaving home.

Tell us about an accomplishment at NC State that fills you with pride.

Since this is the start of my second semester at NC State, I feel inclined to share one of my accomplishments from Johnston Community College. I was fortunate enough to have several opportunities to be a part of various engineering projects, but there is one that fills me with the most pride. This project was the design and implementation of an engineering lab for the college campus. The amount of students that are enrolling in the engineering curriculum and other STEM classes at Johnston Community College is steadily increasing. This led to the development of their STEM building, where 3D printing lays the foundation of their cutting-edge technology. In one of my introductory engineering courses, my class was divided into small groups to develop a design for an engineering lab. We would then present our ideas to a board of faculty at the college that included a couple deans and directors. I led my team throughout the design process and after our presentation, I was very pleased to hear that the board really liked our proposal. So much in fact that they based the majority of the lab off of my team’s design! The next semester, after the renovations, it was a very rewarding experience to walk into that engineering lab and see the layout of the workstations and equipment storage spaces exactly how I had envisioned it. Knowing that I had a part in the development of that lab, where 3D printers and several work areas are utilized by engineering students every day, made it feel like my first real engineering experience.

I honestly could not imagine my life at NC State without being a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program.

What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?

I would have to say networking is the experience I need to have before I graduate. This includes networking with other students as much as networking with professors in the Civil Engineering Department. I love meeting new people and this is also just a great way to gain insight within my major. I may find myself with an interesting research or career opportunity from building these relationships. I would also like to meet someone else with similar goals that may one day help start a business with me.

Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.

I honestly could not imagine my life at NC State without being a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program. It’s funny to think about it that way since I had intentions of going to NC State before I even had knowledge of the Program. But the Goodnight Scholars Program makes me feel like I am part of another family. Ever since the Goodnight Scholars Transfer Summer Retreat, I have known my fellow transfer cohort before even meeting other students in my major. Knowing that I will always have a group of friends to comfort me when I am feeling stressed is comforting. Though perhaps the best feature is the opportunities attributed to the vast variety of programs. I have thoroughly enjoyed every Goodnight Scholar program that I have attended. I intend to participate in many more professional development programs, as I learned how to perfect my resume in one of the many transfer student workshops I attended. I also love how there are programs that allow you to de-stress from your coursework and just spend time with other Goodnight Scholars. I am very blessed and honored to be able to consider myself a Goodnight Scholar, and I am excitedly looking forward to becoming even more engaged with this Program in more semesters to come.

Any unforgettable moments from your time in the Goodnight Scholars community thus far?

One unforgettable memory I have was my experience at the Greek Festival. I have always been interested in learning about other cultures and I have only been to one other country, which is the Philippines. This Greek Festival was in Raleigh, but it felt as if I walked into a little piece of Greece and it was incredible. I enjoyed watching several Greek performers dance, and the music was unlike anything I have ever heard. The food was also very authentic and quite tasty.

What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?

It means you should be your absolute best. I am an investment that someone believes has the potential to make a difference. It means that I am one of many others who have been given this opportunity to untap our potential and give back to our communities. Being a Goodnight Scholar means that you will influence the future. This is why I strive to be my absolute best.

Where do you picture yourself after graduation?

After graduation, I picture myself immediately obtaining my professional engineering licensure. This will open many career opportunities that would otherwise be unfeasible. I then plan on getting a civil engineering career, most likely in water resources. I also plan on not moving too far from home because I want to be able to take care of my parents if they need me, since they have done nothing but help me every step along the way. I truly wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the assistance from my family. I hope to eventually start my own business, like my grandfather did, although I plan on it being related to civil engineering.

Photography credit: Connie Feinberg/Goodnight Scholars Program