Cathleen Samson portraitPost-graduation plans: Software Development Engineer at Amazon

This award recognizes undergraduate students who contribute to improving their department/program, college, university and/or community.

Cathleen Samson served as co-president and outreach coordinator for CU Women in Computing where she organized coding competitions as well as an annual Mock Interview event to connect students with representatives from Google, Twitter and other Boulder-area companies. As vice president and director of student organizations on the University of Colorado Engineering Council, she directed the planning committees for Fall and Spring Engineering Immersion and the West Regional National Association of Engineering Student Councils conference where Engineering Councils from the western region to learn about leadership, professional development and diversity and inclusion. She also served on the Dean's Adviosry Board for more than two years. 

What is your favorite memory from your time at CU Boulder?

Looking back, my favorite moments were just hanging out with my friends in the Engineering Lobby. We frequently called it our second home. It was basically a guarantee that at least one of my friends would be studying there who I could join. I truly miss it during these remote learning times. Didn't know what I had until it was gone.

Tell us about a moment (or moments) when you felt like you hit your stride or felt like you were "officially" an engineer.

I unfortunately give into imposter syndrome more times than I care to admit. But I will say the moments I've felt like an engineer weren't when I aced a test or completed a school project. It was when I was put in a situation in industry or research with so many unknowns on how to get from A to B. Reflecting back, I realized that there's no way I could've designed and implemented a solution if I didn't have the skillset to learn and apply. At a talk I attended once, a speaker said, "I know you have all felt like the smartest person in the room." Everyone else in the room nodded, but I couldn't relate as I have never felt that way. Walking into a room, I make the assumption that there is something I can learn from every single person there. I believe what defines an engineer is not knowing everything but the ability to learn and apply. And I'm not done learning just yet. 

What was the biggest challenge for you during your engineering education? What did you learn from it?

Like all students, I've had to work with difficult team members. My biggest challenge was learning how to work with them. In a team, it's a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses. Throughout my experience, I learned how to respectfully bring up my problem with a team member in a way that is productive and not accusatory. There's no one-size-fits-all method to getting some team members to be active. At the end of the day, all you can do is reach a hand out and make your expectations clear. But you can't control other people and their actions. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for incoming engineering students?  

Join clubs if you can. Get involved with the college. I have met the greatest people through getting involved with student organizations. There will be hard times throughout your four years but your support system and community will get you through those moments.