Spring 2019

At Chairish, we’re committed to helping college students achieve their dreams and this month we’re excited to announce the recipient of our Spring 2019 “Design Your Future” Scholarship as Michelle Zhang of Columbia University. Focused on a major in civil engineering, Michelle is currently interning with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and honing her engineering skills like a pro. “As an intern, I’m excited everyday at work, taking in the wealth of knowledge from a person whose brain has saved lives,” says Michelle, “How cool is that? To become a sidekick engineer-in-training and try my hand at designing and estimating for myself would be like a dream.” To celebrate her scholarship win, we asked Michelle to share a little bit about herself, including how good design inspires her everyday and a few Chairish items she’s eyeing for her NYC dorm!

Can you tell us a bit about how design factored into your life growing up and what made you want to enter a field connected to design?
My mom is very big on trying to find quality items; things that last for years so they can serve as hand-me-downs. I didn’t think about it much until she showed me that my jacket had a little cloth lip at the top of the zipper so that the zipper would not poke into my neck or zip up my hair. This is what design is to me: unsung considerations that perform well and last.

That’s just like our road system. A federal project may only come around once in a decade, so we need to design our roads to be safe and efficient for the long term. But much more than getting hair caught is at stake: a good design can improve livelihoods and save lives. It may not seem like it, but design, at least for civil engineers, is tangible, impactful work.

What excites you about a career in civil engineering?
Civil engineering is diverse! Even in just my summer internship, I’ve done computer drafting, traffic modeling and simulation, drainage plans, excavation and fill cross sections, pavement marking plans, construction visits, airport visits, culvert field reviews, guardrail field reviews—really cool stuff that keeps my brain challenged in the office and my body engaged in the field. There’s so many different design choices involved in engineering, and I can’t wait until I’ll get to see my own contributions put into use one day.

How did you hear about the Chairish scholarship program?
That’s actually a very good question; I don’t remember! My friends and I have a shared spreadsheet with each other for scholarships, so we add to our list whenever we see one pop up. The Chairish one might have been from there, in which case I think it was probably on a friend’s college’s “External Scholarships” page. (Sometimes it’s luck: once, my cat sat on my laptop and somehow took me to the page of a scholarship I’d never seen before!)

What does this scholarship mean to you?
I calculated (sorry, engineer here), and it means 175 fewer hours of working at my part-time jobs during the school year. It means 175 more hours I can spend learning about all the different concepts that go into civil engineering. 175 more hours that I can use to get involved with my community, talk with my professors, participate in civil engineering events, or even spend more time with my family. And that’s invaluable.

When not in class or studying or volunteering, what hobbies or activities can we find you taking part in? 
I like really random things. I enjoy Chinese calligraphy, photography, art history, singing in Glee Club. I really appreciate going out in nature (but I also volunteer there, so does it still count?) and identifying the different birds, plants, and rocks. I like completing jigsaw puzzles and 3D wood model kits.  Oh, and it’s weird, but I also find making PowerPoint presentations really exciting; I don’t know why. 

If you could select a few items on the site to furnish your dorm, what would those be?
Wow, that’s a hard one! Especially thinking of my little NYC dorm room!

Let’s see…I like to have a solid desk to keep my things, but there’s always those times when I need extra tables for an event or for visitors. I’m not entirely sure how this Illum Wikkelso Teak Folding Tables Set works, but it looks intriguing!

I knew about hammocks, but I didn’t know hanging chairs existed. This Vintage Boho Chic Macrame Hanging Chair looks like a piece that would be fun to sit in and not take up too much room while in storage.

There are times when I’m in NYC where I really miss palm trees. If I had this Mario Lopez Torres Rattan Palm Tree Table Lamp it should satisfy the longing!

I have a set of postcards in the style of these Vintage Botanical Prints, but of birds. These would be nice to look at to calm down on stressful days.

My mom recently had to discard the old rocking chair that I loved at home. This 1970’s Charles Hollis Jones Gray Alpaca Upholstered Rocker would be a comfortable and modern addition while being different enough from my old one that it won’t feel like I’m replacing it.

I suppose this DeMott Brass Metal Sailboat on Quartz  would be hard to fit in my dorm room, but the smooth curves of it are entrancing.

My favorite animal is the tiger, and I could see this Tibetan Tiger Rug being used to decorate a space that otherwise would be unused, like below a desk, perhaps.

Reproduction Eames Elephant: Cute and functional! What a fun piece!

Fall 2018

We’re thrilled to announce the winner of our 2018 “Design Your Future” Scholarship as Arly Gisselle Melendrez of Arizona State University. Arly is a junior pursuing a degree in industrial engineering at ASU, with a focus on sustainable energy and technology. As a leader of the Hispanic community, she’s a strong asset to inspire youth to pursue higher education and STEM interests and careers. Learn all about Arly in our Q&A below!

Can you tell us how design and engineering factored into your life growing up? What made you want to study it more?
Growing up, I always had a flair for math and science. I liked to take on challenges and understand the why and how behind everything. This is still true today. During high school, I was able to take an engineering course that broadened and confirmed my interest in engineering. Although there wasn’t anyone in my family who was in the field of engineering, I was interested from the very first time I heard about it, and knew I had to do whatever it takes to become an engineer. In addition, knowing that Latina women are underrepresented in this field gave me all the more motivation to spread STEM awareness in my community.

You’re attending Arizona State University and focusing on industrial engineering. What areas are you focusing on?
As I approach my senior year in Industrial Engineering, I am diving deep into my core Industrial Engineering classes. They are all fascinating to me. I could not have picked a more perfect major for myself. In particular, I can see myself pursuing a career in Quality Control in the healthcare field, and eventually in Engineering Administration once I have a few years of experience under my belt. I plan to pursue a master’s in Engineering Management once I finish my undergraduate studies as well. I love seeing the big-picture approach to things, and I also think a masters in Engineering management will also align very well with my outgoing personality and leadership skills.

What excites you most about having a career in a STEM-related field? The opportunities with-in STEM are endless. I am a curious person who loves to be out of their comfort zone and constantly trying new things. I also know that if I’m ever looking for a new industry, I can go anywhere with an engineering degree. Moreover, as I said before, I am a people person and I am so excited to be able to work in teams with other like-minded individuals who want to make a positive impact in the world.

How did you hear about the Chairish scholarship program?
I found the Chairish scholarship program on ASU’s scholarship portal!

What does this scholarship mean to you?
In addition to lifting a huge financial burden, this scholarship is motivation to continue working hard and give back. Knowing that a group of people read my story and invested time, energy, and finances to help me cover my attendance costs gives me hope. Engineering has not been an easy road. But I know there is a group of people rooting for my success, for which I am beyond thankful for.

Do you have any favorite products on Chairish?
Yes! I love this 1960s X-Base Lamp and Textured Gold Mirror. Ever since hearing about Chairish, I spend, admittedly, hours looking at all the awesome products!

Learn more about the Chairish “Design Your Future” Scholarship, or enter the running for the Fall 2019 award here.

Lead photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.


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August 14, 2019

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