International MSE students share their Iowa State adventure

Iowa State University serves engineering students from all around the world.

Here’s the story of Millicent Hoback and Winnie Kiarie, two Iowa State materials science engineering (MSE) students, who are both pursuing their degrees over 8,000 miles from home. Hoback is working toward her Master of Science (M.S.) and Kiarie is working toward her Ph.D. Both Hoback and Kiarie are committed to making a positive impact on the Iowa State engineering community and beyond during their time at Iowa State.

Both women are Kenya natives and completed their bachelor’s in civil engineering at Kenyatta University. A partnership between Iowa State’s College of Engineering and Kenyatta University introduced Hoback and Kiarie to Iowa State’s MSE program in 2016 when three MSE professors visited Kenyatta.

Discovering Iowa State

As part of the university partnership, Hoback and Kiarie later visited Iowa State as exchange students for two weeks. During their exchange program, the women shadowed current MSE graduate students to get a feel for Iowa State’s program.

(Millicent Hoback)

“During my visit, I witnessed the cordial relationships between the students and faculty at Iowa State. This assured me that I would have a stable academic family in the MSE department,” Hoback said. “My interaction with faculty members across the College of Engineering departments was encouraging, and their cooperation confirmed to me that I would be mentored. In the end, I had no doubt that Iowa State, and in particular the MSE department, was the most ideal place for me to pursue a graduate career.”

Importance of research

Hoback and Kiarie both officially began their adventure studying MSE and conducting research at Iowa State in 2017.

(Winnie Kiarie)

Kiarie highlighted how her research experience at Iowa State has given her a better perspective on the societal impact of research.

“Since attending Iowa State, I not only have a foundational understanding of materials science as a discipline but also a better understanding of the innovative aspects of engineering and a thorough understanding of the importance of research,” Kiarie said. “I now realize how much research can contribute to the growth of society.”

Hoback also agreed that her time at Iowa State has shown her the importance of research.

“It was eye-opening to see how my research project plays a critical role in the acceleration of the design of materials,” Hoback said.

Advocating for their communities

Along with their educational development, both Hoback and Kiarie have taken up advocacy roles throughout the Iowa State College of Engineering community and beyond.

Hoback is now the president of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers at Iowa State, an organization that works to create a “dynamic, positive and supportive environment for women seeking graduate degrees in engineering.”

As the society president, Hoback said she is working to make female engineering graduate students feel a sense of belonging and comfort.

Kiarie is on the Student Advocacy Committee of the Iowa State International Student Council. She enjoys this position because it allows her to have a positive impact on the international student community.

Through her position on the committee, Kiarie is currently working with Iowa State career services offices to ensure international students are receiving the best resources to help them find internships and careers. She also serves as the social chair for the Materials Research Society.

Share the experience

Both women encourage all college students to share their positive experiences and study abroad at some point in their educational careers.

“Studying abroad gives you a global mindset,” Kiarie said. “It allows you to interact with people, learn and conduct research on a global level. This global mindset widens your perspective and gives you a competitive edge, professionally.”

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