Name: Jenna Klemkowsky
Education: B.S. Physics and a Minor in Mathematics, Wheeling Jesuit University (May 2014), M.S. Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University (December 2016), Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University (currently in progress)
When did you first visit a Challenger Learning Center? I visited the Challenger Learning Center in Wheeling, West Virginia for space camp during the summer before I started 3rd grade. It was my absolute favorite! I also had the opportunity to take a few field trips to the Center during 4th and 5th grade for various simulated missions.
What do you remember the most from your experience at the Center? My favorite part was being in Mission Control during the mission simulations. I loved being able to communicate with the students in “space” while also trying to work with the other students in Mission Control to make sure the overall mission was a success. At the time, it felt like such a real-life situation, and I was so captivated by the entire process.
Have you always been interested in STEM? I have always been interested in STEM because I like problem-solving and working together with others to figure out a solution. I was never naturally good at science or math, but I’ve been successful because of hard work, communication, and collaboration.
Do you have an early memory of a time when realized how much you liked these subjects? Going to space camp at the Center was one of those defining moments. I realized that there were so many neat things about our world and our universe which made me excited to continue learning about them throughout my education.
Did you have a mentor during high school? Yes! My mentor was one of my high school math teachers, Gretchen Gibson. She was by far the most incredible teacher I’ve ever had, and she still is to this day. Her teaching approaches really allowed me (as well as other students) to gain a strong understanding in the fundamental math concepts. If it weren’t for her, I definitely would not have had a strong math foundation when I started college.
What’s your dream job? Where would you like to be professionally in 10 years? I think the typical response from a lot of Aerospace Engineers when asked about their dream job is being an astronaut…this is definitely my answer! Besides being an astronaut, I wouldn’t say that I have a specific dream job. Two of my biggest strengths are in organization and communication, so my goal is to be in a leadership role where I have the opportunity to guide a team of engineers in a collaborative environment.
What other activities are you involved in? What do you like to do in your free time? Currently, I am a member of the Auburn University Engineers Without Borders Student Chapter. I’ve been the co-team lead for the last two years which has really exposed me to a new way of thinking—especially when it comes to serving others through the use of my engineering skills. With my involvement, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda twice. Our project involves working with local Rwandan villages to provide them with easier access to water.
In one sentence, how would you describe a Challenger Learning Center? The Challenger Learning Center is a place that provides exciting exposure to the world of STEM-topics, and it is a place that I hope every young student gets the opportunity to go to in order to enhance their education!