Shereen Elfadil, electrical engineering major with a minor in mathematics was named the Fall 2023 Washkewicz College of Engineering Valedictorian. Shereen has maintained at 4.0 each semester since she enrolled, fall 2019. In addition to this honor, her Senior Design team won first place with their Autonomous Nursery Cart this past spring semester. (Read the story in our current Washkewicz Magazine.) Shereen received an offer to work full time at ABB Process Automation in Highland Hills, Ohio as an Associate Hardware Engineer after graduation.
Shereen was born in Egypt and her dad was a police officer and mom a doctor. Her parents accepted jobs in Saudi Arabia and the family moved and she was enrolled into an American school, where the curriculum was more challenging. Shereen had a passion for learning and would try to engage with her professors, asking questions and having conversations with professors and like, why certain things are right and why they can't be done other ways in general, in the science field. “They would not answer and say there was not much time for that, and the culture did not really encourage a lot of discussions, debates and, so I felt like I was a bit limited. Studying and doing my tests and things like that, I did not really practice what I enjoyed most - attending lectures and having it more like a conversation style than just receiving…one way teaching,” she said.
“I never really knew who nomads were as a child. I was a 9-year-old girl living in a small city in Egypt only thinking of tomorrow as another day to engage in what I thought was my favorite routine: going to school, coming back, having lunch with my family, studying for a while, and then enjoying a good sleep. I remember finding my life to be very pleasant and relaxing—no crazy challenges, unsurmountable hurdles, or risks that can heighten my adrenaline. I found the routine to be very peaceful. At that time, little did I know what was set for me in life. Little did I know that I was not meant to be an ordinary citizen of typical qualities, but rather a curious opportunity-seeking nomad.
“Nomads are known to travel frequently, finding and exploring new opportunities. In fact, that is how my story went, traveling through cultures and societies to discover my personal, academic, and social identity. I moved from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, at age 9, with my family post the 2011 Egyptian Revolts, seeking safety and a better quality of life. While I primarily found this change of environment to be uncomfortable and unnecessary, it eventually turned into a life-changing experience for me that slowly but surely dug the roots of my true character. I was enrolled at an American school in Saudi Arabia, where it was much easier for me to have my voice heard and my character mature than at my Egyptian school. Through school, I started understanding my character better. Turns out I was never a typical student who agrees with everything and never takes challenges, rather, it was the environment I lived in that taught me to be resistant to change and arguments.
“In my new school, I found myself to be a great inquirer in classes, conversing with my instructors and debating on long-accepted facts, scientific or social, that do not make sense to me yet. While my engagement was not met with extreme welcome, I still enjoyed the free space I have recently got. The opportunity to speak my mind and do what I think is right as long as it’s backed up by evidence was a blessing. This heavily translated to my test-taking skills. I started to view examinations as fun challenges rather than memorized words jotted down on paper. In many instances, I was the only student to solve questions differently, then talk through my thoughts with the instructor, and convince them to the extent that they decide to set my work as the model answer. Honestly, I found it pleasing the privilege of speaking up. However, like I said, I was never able to get to my full intellectual potential. The educators in my school did not enjoy questions or debates very much. Some considered me a stubborn student whose arguments are driven by arrogance, although that was never my intent. Regardless of the resistance, I pushed through, continuing to enhance my intellect, through reading, engaging in conversations with instructors, and forming my own unique train of thought.
“I applied to multiple universities abroad, not exactly sure where I would land or what I would want to pursue for a major. My mother suggested I apply to Cleveland State University’s Mandel Honors College Scholarship Program, and I did apply only to satisfy her. The Honors College grants scholarships to two international students per year, and given I was influenced by some people’s negative opinions of my mindset, I had little hope of getting accepted. However, one of the most inspiring and surprising incidents of my life occurred. The selection panel saw my potential and curiosity to learn, help, and make a difference. They saw my character, which is always hungry for knowledge and debate, as a unique one. I was viewed as highly intellectual rather than stubborn, as open to valid arguments rather than quarrelsome, and as innovative rather than complicator. After getting my acceptance letter, I was off again to my most influential nomadic experience.
“I arrived in The United States with little knowledge of the American culture. However, I took it as a duty to be myself and embrace the traits that got me accepted to CSU (Cleveland State University). And indeed, that is all CSU has asked from me. I have to confess I was taken aback by how much I can do at CSU. I quickly got engaged in multiple different activities and societies. Just a few months into my first semester, my General Chemistry instructor found me to be a good candidate for tutoring her Preparatory Chemistry class, and I started working in my first semester, juggling between managing my coursework, assimilating to the new environment, and performing my job duties. It was rather bewildering to me that a packed day filled with work, school, and trying new things at CSU turned out to be my favorite lifestyle. My past self was wrong. I do not want routine. I want the challenges a nomad faces.
“I quickly became my professors' favorite student because of how engaged I am in my classes. I enjoyed every bit of the lectures because I was given the opportunity to ask questions and express my opinions. Professors started specifically asking for my presence in lectures to foster learning and encourage others to take part. I soon decided to pursue Electrical Engineering because of my love for math, problem-solving, and intricate work, interests I have only discovered at CSU. Encouraged by everyone, my true character was lit up, and I discovered the multitude of different things I can do and my love for multitasking and business. I left my job as a Chemistry tutor and started working as a Calculus Peer Teacher. At the same time, I was helping new Honors students get assimilated to the CSU campus and enjoying the wide range of events I get access to as a student. Later in my sophomore year, my family came in and I was given permanent residency in The United States, to be able to officially call this place home.
With the presence of my family, I had a greater opportunity to travel throughout the US and discover the new culture I live in. I learned to be confident, true to myself, and kind to others. Most importantly, I learned that I do not need to give up on any part of my beloved Egyptian culture; everyone was happy to interact with me the way I am with all my different customs, traditions, and habits.
“My junior and senior years have been transformative academically. I became a Lead STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) peer Teacher of Calculus at the OpSTEM (Operation STEM) program and brought up great ideas to develop the quality of tutoring sessions. I was named Lead of The Month multiple times and formed great relationships with my coworkers. I also got into the core courses of my EE major, where I was better able to benefit others and help them in their studies. In the summertime, I would take engineering internships to develop my skills while serving the community through fundraising and volunteer work. During the Fall and Spring, I continued to work on my coursework vigilantly and achieved great academic standing. Later, I was given the opportunity to TA for The Power Electronic Lab class where I further developed my knowledge and skills. All these great opportunities have set me up for the capstone of my journey at CSU, my Senior Design project.
Shereen’s favorite courses were “my first-year courses especially Calculus I, Calculus II and Physics I, and then for my core courses I enjoyed Power Systems and communications. These were so much fun to be honest because I usually enjoy the first introductory course to any new topic. That's my favorite because then after that, you get more familiar with the mindset of how that field works”.
“One of the most challenging things I faced was hanging my own mindset and trying to be less of a perfectionist. And more of a good performer and flexible person that's important and it's a good change from high school to college. I started paying more attention to the quality of work than the quantity of work and that's something. My instructors encouraged me too. I felt like they were more, as I remember one of my professors emailed me and said, ‘you're a good student not just because of your grades it's because of your mindset.’ That's something that really stood out.”
When asked about her experience of being on the first place Senior Design team, Shereen said, “I honestly hoped for first place, but it was also still very surprising that we got to do that because we were a student led project. We didn't have any sponsors, so we felt like we were a bit on our own. We got so much support from our instructors, especially Drs. Gao and Lin. I felt like the whole senior design project was a life transforming experience.”
“I've always had insecurity with engineering. I felt like I'm better at solving problems and taking tests than doing the hands-on part. I was not very confident with doing the actual engineering work like engineering applications. I feel like that was challenging to me and I was not sure how to go about it the right way and how to design something. It was a trial-and-error process of just doing random stuff. I operate (better) using a manual. I just can't do anything except for having some courage, you have some skills just go start the task and see where you'd go from there and you might end up with something that's what I learned,” she laughed. “The team I was working with, to be honest, were great people and were very helpful. We each had something special to bring to the team. I was more focused on the electronic part. Because of my job duties, I designed our converters, and the team lead was more into the mechanical side where he built the cart and did some coding, and we had another a member who was more into developing the Robotics operating System so it was a lot of schooling and learning.
“Looking back at my senior year, taking 17 credit hours, working on senior design, TA’ing for Power Electronics, and leading the Calculus peer tutoring group would not have been possible if it weren’t for the strength and confidence that CSU has built in me over the years. Indeed, they have made every effort worth it and I succeeded in showing the world my curious nomadic nature!”
What others are saying about Shereen
“Shereen has excelled in her STEM peer teacher role in the classroom, patiently and clearly explaining complicated calculus concepts to students and as a Lead SPT (STEM peer teachers) she has also demonstrated leadership, compassion, organization, and communication skills. This semester, Shereen even facilitated an SPT team meeting, where she trained the entire group of 35 SPTs about how to give and receive feedback productively and professionally in the workplace. She conceptualized this training session herself, prepared the needed materials and delivered a valuable professional development opportunity to her peers. Shereen's professionalism has truly been an asset to the OpSTEM leadership team these last two years that we have worked together,” said, Sara A. Froehlich, PhD Assistant Professor of Practice Director of OpSTEM/LSAMP.
“As the instructor and faculty advisor for senior design team she was on, I witnessed her coming out party. During the lecture on intellectual property given by Jack Kraszewski, the CSU lawyer and tech transfer director, she asked Jack some probing questions, like a seasoned professional.” Commented Dr. Zhiqiang Gao, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Advanced Control Technologies.
Dr. Ana V. Stankovic, Professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering said, “I have been Shereen’s professor for the last two years. She took all my courses in the power area. She is one of the most exceptional students I have encountered in my 30 years of teaching. She is an extremely talented and hardworking student. Shereen is my Teaching Assistant for EEC 471.”
“Shereen Elfadil stands out as one of the most outstanding students I have had the privilege to guide at CSU. Her achievements are remarkable, with a top-grade point average, an outstanding graduation project, and many awards to her name. What is even more inspiring is her role as a female student, whose story will undoubtedly inspire countless other students at CSU to dedicate themselves to achieving greatness. I would not hesitate for a moment to welcome her as a PhD student under my guidance.” Said Dr. Qin Lin, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science.
“Shereen has strong industry experience working two summers at Henkel Corporation and then at Hinkley Corporation. She completed many interesting and important projects during her internships and was a strong leader during that work.” Shared, Dr. Allen G. Morinec, Adjunct Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Shereen has advice for those students coming behind her. “I would recommend that they look at the holistic experience of college rather than just test by test, course by course, day by day, not just being aware that these four years can make a difference in your skill sets and abilities. More than just your grades and looking at college as a bit different from high school, that it's your way of preparing yourself for adult life where you're not going to just take what you must face the world and learn to solve actual rewarding problems. Keep that in the back of your mind. Don’t just focus on academics also focus more on the other things that college has to offer.”
About CSU and the Washkewicz College of Engineering
Cleveland State University is a public institution in Cleveland, Ohio. The university has over 16,000 students enrolled in programs at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral levels. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Washkewicz College of Engineering offers graduate and undergraduate programs. The undergraduate programs are accredited by ABET. This year, the College will celebrate its Centennial Anniversary. Visit csuohio.edu/fenn100 to support and engage in activities. To learn more about the College, please visit: engineering.csuohio.edu.