Published November 28, 2018
One September night, senior aerospace and mechanical engineering student Jessica Evans unsuspectingly picked up the phone. On the other end Evans heard the unexpected yet familiar voice of Jacquie Walker, local Channel 4 news anchor and namesake of a prestigious scholarship from the Buffalo chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
“I was completely overwhelmed,” Evans says of learning she had won the scholarship from Walker, who was getting ready to go on for the 10 o’clock news.
“I know there are a lot of other amazing women in western New York so I was very honored,” says Evans. The $5,000 Jacquie Walker scholarship is awarded each year to a college junior or senior who exemplifies the spirit of community service.
“We are extremely proud of everything Jessica has been able to accomplish while at UB,” says Kemper Lewis, professor and chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “She is a leader of impact who makes everyone else around her better."
In the community, Evans is a dedicated volunteer at The Teacher’s Desk, a nonprofit founded in 2011. Each Saturday for the last four years, Evans and her father, an elementary school teacher, have helped out at the organization, which distributes $6 million of school supplies annually. The organization is open to teachers at high-poverty schools in the area – of which there are about 250 – where kids often arrive at school without basic supplies. Many teachers fill this gap with out-of-pocket funds, struggling to make the most of things in a high-needs, underfunded system. The Teacher’s Desk helps to alleviate this burden by providing the necessary school supplies to help students succeed.
“It’s amazing to see the look on teachers’ faces the first time they come to The Teacher’s Desk,” says Evans, who helps with everything from unloading pallets to administrative work. “People leave with carts full of $1,000 worth of school supplies and tears in their eyes.”
On campus, Evans is president of the UB student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). As a leader, she is creating more opportunities for students to connect with local professionals working in the aerospace industry. This includes attending dinners put on by the local AIAA chapter, learning from distinguished guest speakers and networking with people in the community. She has also traveled around the country to participate in conferences, and has participated in the AIAA’s international Design/Build/Fly competition, where she and fellow club members design, fabricate, and demonstrate the flight capabilities of an unmanned, electric powered, radio-controlled aircraft in a flyoff.
Evans has loved her time at UB, where she has gained in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience in two majors, as well as connected with members of the aerospace community locally and nationally.
After graduating in the spring, Evans hopes to eventually work in space craft design. “It’s a concept not everyone understands,” she says. “It’s cool to be able to look up at the sky and say ‘I understand how that works, and I can work on that one day.’”