Despite the challenges that come with being a non-traditional student, Goodnight Scholar Justin May T’22 has excelled in his two years at NC State. Justin is on his way to graduating with an Accelerated Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and welcoming his second child, all while remembering to continuously pay it forward for future generations.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Justin May T’22: I am a transfer student majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Raleigh being my hometown, I had always dreamed of attending the NCSU College of Engineering. Growing up, I could always be found tinkering with my toys to see how they worked and after high school I landed a job in the automotive industry. Jumping ahead some years later to today, I can still be found tinkering with toys and learning about how things work as I raise a toddler and prepare for another baby on the way! One of the things I am passionate about is the sustainability of how we live our lives, especially now that I have children that will grow up in a world affected by my actions. Some of the fields of work I have interest in are renewable energy and finding ways to make manufacturing more eco-friendly.
How would you describe your life as an NC State student thus far?
My life as an NC State student has been very challenging yet rewarding. I never thought I would enjoy the classroom so much and I am always excited to see what is next in my studies. I also love being on campus and I take every opportunity to just walk around and take it all in. When I am not on campus or doing schoolwork, my wife and I are busy raising a toddler and getting him ready for a new baby in the house. While this has taken away some of the opportunities to do the things that other students get to do during their free time, I would not trade it for anything in the world.
Tell us about an accomplishment at NC State that fills you with pride.
Being a non-traditional student, it was a very big step for me to return to school after so many years. Just being accepted into College of Engineering at NC State was a huge accomplishment for me. On top of that, I never imagined I could be a part of something like the Goodnight Scholars Program. Now, I am in the Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree Program and plan to finish out my time as a Goodnight with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. While I do take great pride in this, it would not have been possible if not for the support of my family and the Goodnight Scholars Program.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
Being a Goodnight Scholar isn’t about who I am now, but who I can become. This means always putting my best foot forward and thinking about what comes next. It also means never accepting myself as being perfect and always striving to improve who I am as a person. It is also about being selfless and serving the community whenever possible. One thing that is very important to being a Goodnight Scholar is paying it forward and I want to use every chance I have to do so.
Being a Goodnight Scholar isn’t about who I am now, but who I can become.
What is one of your unforgettable memories in the Goodnight Scholars Program thus far?
The Summer Retreat for incoming scholars is my favorite memory of the Goodnight Scholars Program. I had the excitement of starting at NCSU and being a Goodnight Scholar along with the anxiety and nervousness of starting something new that at the time was quite overwhelming. The retreat provided a time for me to get to know my cohort (Hi ‘T22 scholars!) and meet some current scholars while also getting to know the campus. It was at this point where we also got to know the backbone of the program: The Goodnight Scholars Pro Staff. They were there to help in our transition into NCSU and they all made sure we were comfortable enough to come to them if we ever needed advice, had any concerns, or just wanted to talk about anything on our minds. With the Summer Retreat, most if not all of my feelings of anxiety were eased, and I got to start my time at NCSU knowing I had a network of support from the Goodnight Scholars Program.
How have you learned to adapt to the COVID-19 situation when it comes to academics?
The transition to online learning was very tough to say the least. I have had to learn to be more flexible and patient with my learning. Most communication with professors is done through email now. If I am having difficult with a concept, I can no longer talk to the professor after class or pop in for office hours at my convenience. With this, I have found that it is important to always have a plan of work for that period of time so that if I get stuck on an assignment I can work on something else until I am able to get the help I need. Also, sticking to a routine has helped adapt to learning during this time. I try to follow a schedule that would resemble the in-person schedule so that I don’t fall behind in any classes.
What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?
I have been so focused on walking across the stage at the time of graduation that I have not really thought about what I want to experience during school. I think the one experience I need to have is going to an NC State game of any sort. While basketball or football would be the first choice, I think any other game would be very enjoyable as long as I get to cheer on the Wolfpack at the top of my lungs.
Where do you picture yourself after graduation?
One of the reasons I like Mechanical Engineering is because of the numerous possibilities across many types of industry it provides. My ultimate goal is to obtain my Professional Engineering license. For now, I do not have a specific field I want to pursue but hope to have the opportunity to work in several fields so that I can find something that fits me best. Whatever I end up doing, I hope to be in a position where I can have a positive impact on my community.
What would be your biggest piece of advice to a potential Goodnight Scholar or incoming Goodnight Scholar?
The biggest piece of advice I would give, and this is one that is constantly thrown around the Goodnight Scholars community, is to give yourself a break. We have all worked very hard to get to where we are now, and we all want to keep pushing ourselves to be the best we can be. Most classmates I know have at one point or another completely over-exerted themselves with school work and most I know have also performed poorly on an assignment or exam. You can’t let these moments define who you are as a student or person. Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and give yourself a break. Coming back in with fresh eyes is often all it takes to get you back to where you need to be.
Photography credit: Josh Guter/Goodnight Scholars Program