Mar 30, 2020
Kameron Hurst visits the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia as part of the Women Engineers Conference in October 2016. (Courtesy Kameron Hurst).

Future female STEM leader of tomorrow

When she graduated high school, Kameron Hurst knew she wanted to go into electrical engineering. After being awarded the Husband-Boeing Honors Scholarship in 2013, Hurst made the decision to attend Fresno State. 

After attending three semesters, Hurst decided to take a year off of school in order to focus on internships. She worked for Toyota Motors of North America, as well as software development company Front Porch in Sonora, California. Hurst then came back to Fresno State with a year’s worth of work experience under her belt. 

In December, Hurst will be graduating from Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering with a 3.99 G.P.A and will begin working at Cisco Systems, Inc. 

“We have students who are bright, but she’s a good package of a good human being, very kind, very helpful,” said engineering professor Dr. Zoulikha Mouffak. 

Hurst was born and raised in Sonora. She graduated in 2013 from The Connections Visual and Performing Arts School, a performance art school on The Summerville Union High School campus in Tuolumne, California. 

While in high school, Hurst did stage management for every performance, controlling the booth and directing scene changes. Though she enjoyed participating in the various components of performance art, Hurst was drawn to pursue engineering in college over the arts. 

“For engineering, I knew mathwise, sciencewise and schoolwise that I was capable of it, but also that it was going to challenge me more mentally than another profession,” said Hurst.

During her senior year of high school, Hurst established a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team. FTC team challenges students to design, build and program robots that compete against other teams in international competitions. 

Today, the team Hurst created is one of two FTC teams out of Summerville High School. The team, after becoming too large, had to split into two separate teams in order to provide opportunities for all its members. 

In college, Hurst found another community of engineers in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) at Fresno State, as well as Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

“Kami puts a huge amount of effort into everything she puts her mind to. As an engineer, she’s able to approach problems through different lenses and always comes up with elegant solutions derived from fundamental concepts,” said former IEEE president Carter Dana. “Her innate leadership ability can be seen with her involvement in the IEEE student chapter, in how she’s able to counsel the leaders and take part in the local chapter’s efforts in the Lyles College of Engineering and engineering community. However, this all pales in comparison to her genial nature, integrity and friendship.”

While at Fresno State, Hurst has come to appreciate the professors and opportunities she has had. During her internships, Hurst said she felt just as, if not more, prepared as her counterparts from University of the Pacific, Purdue and Carnegie Mellon.

“Within the electrical engineering department, we have a lot of professors that have industry experience, and that’s been crucial,” Hurst said. “Having those professors, and having small enough class sizes that you have that one-on-one interaction, has been really helpful.” 

Though Hurst has been successful in her collegiate career, it has not been conventional. After three semesters at Fresno State, Hurst took a year off to do internships. When she came back to Fresno State, Hurst finished an additional two semesters but had to leave school again in order to help during a family emergency. 

Hurst came back to Fresno State to finish her last three semesters in fall 2018. Though she took long lengths of time off, Hurst was able to bounce back into classes with relative ease. 

“After the first time I left and came back, people were shocked because they were like, ‘I don’t know how you can leave for a year and then come back and still jump right back into math and all those things,’” Hurst said. “I think the only B I got was during the third semester I was here. So before I took off a year and did internships, but then after I came back I got a 4.0.”

It has taken Hurst eight semesters to graduate, but she finished these semesters over the course of six years. Though this is not the traditional timetable, Hurst has been able to demonstrate that students can successfully finish college according to their schedule. 

“That’s one thing that I wish that we would do better, which is to allow students to do internships,” Hurst said. “There’s the stigma of four years, which is a great goal to have and I know it’s a goal that President [Dr. Joseph I.] Castro has, but internships are so valuable that it doesn’t make sense to talk down on those who are taking longer to graduate because they are making those professional connections.”

The internships Hurst participated in gave her a leg up when entering the workforce. She has been offered positions at Intel, Toyota and Cisco. 

She declined the offer at Intel because it was more software focused rather than mechanical. Though Hurst has experience in both realms as an electrical engineer, she is more comfortable in a predominantly mechanical-focused position.

Over the past month, Hurst has been deciding between Toyota and Cisco. After having worked in four different internship positions for Toyota, they made a job offer in November to work on a confidential project related to emissions. 

“I would be working on a project within the fuel cell realm, which is something that Toyota doesn’t currently do,” Hurst said. 

Despite the enticing offer from Toyota, Hurst accepted the position at Cisco. Starting in February, Hurst will be working at Cisco’s San Jose campus, where she will work on board mounted power. 

“One of the considerations I had to make was around upward mobility,” Hurst said. “When I look at a position, I look at what will be my future opportunities as well as the stability of the position within the company.”

As Hurst starts her career, she wants to focus on projects and industries that are new and have not been done before. She also cares about the environment, so she wants to be a part of projects that are playing a role in revolutionizing this area.

“I want to be in a realm that is thriving on innovation,” Hurst said. “I would be happy if those new and exciting things I am working on were also in a direction that helped the environment.”

Hurst’s appreciation for the environment comes from having grown up in Sonora, a community that has seen the impact of climate change through the varying snow levels each season, as well as being one of the communities that had its power shut off by PG&E this past fall. 

In her move to Fresno, Hurst has stayed connected to her outdoor-oriented lifestyle by joining a rock climbing gym and going on regular hiking trips.

“Finding something outside of school that also allows you to see progress and reach a different kind of goal is pretty important,” Hurst said. “As engineers, we study a lot. So having an outside thing to focus on has helped me stay motivated and successful.”

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