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Amanda Gravelle
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Amanda Gravelle

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Normal Community High School

Hometown: Bloomington, Ill.

Majors: Environmental studies; engineering physics

Activities: Augustana Symphony Orchestra, Augustana Physics and Engineering Society, APS-IDEA Physics Mentoring Program

Internships: Design engineering Intern at Bergstrom, Inc.; civil engineering intern at Veenstra and Kimm, Inc.

Post-grad plans: Civil engineer at Veenstra and Kimm, Inc.

Why Augustana?

I loved the size and feel of Augustana. It's not so small that you know everyone within the first week, and not so big that you get lost in the shuffle. Every professor that I met seemed to truly care about teaching; my current cello professor, Dr. Janina Ehrlich, was actually one of the primary reasons I chose Augustana over my other options. I also came in undecided, and Augustana helped me explore and refine my wide variety of interests.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

While I didn't expect to end my career at Augustana as a civil engineer, I've had the opportunities to grow in my self-confidence and form deep relationships. I've grown to love the Quad Cities and the people in it, and while these past four years haven't necessarily gone the way that I expected, they've been incredibly rewarding.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

My professors have had an enormous influence on helping me become who I am today. Dr. Sarah Lashley has been a role model for interacting with people whose views are different from my own. Dr. Kevin Geedey has taught me how to notice the little details in the world around me. Dr. Nathan Frank has provided me with support and opportunities to grow as a student and a person. 

My advisors Dr. Michael Reisner and Dr. Joshua Dyer have been steadying presences in the face of my 1,001 career crises. Dr. Janina Ehrlich has been a constant source of positive encouragement, helping me rediscover my love for the cello; and Dr. Mahn and Pastor Melinda have reminded me how to breathe and be present.

And as thankful as I am for my professors, it is my friendships that have kept me sane. The late-night ice cream runs, rant sessions and hikes have been the highlight of my time at Augustana. I am who I am today because of them.

Peak experience?

One day during my junior year, a few friends and I had spent hours in Hanson working on a group project for an Engineering Design class, when all of the sudden, we heard tubas and trumpets in the distance. 

I genuinely thought I was hallucinating for a moment, until we all went outside, followed the sound to Evald and found the Tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. For an hour, we enjoyed the music, dancing, reenactment and free food. This combo of friendship, work and fun embodies Augie for me.

What surprised you?

I wasn't expecting to form such close relationships with my professors here. In high school, there are stark boundaries between students and teachers, but at Augie, professors often are more partners-in-research than strict authority figures. I've been to their homes, gotten excited over classwork and shared meals with many of them.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I was able to study abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Austria as part of a Music in Germany/Engineering Ethics course my junior year. My classmates and I visited castles, went paragliding, toured museums and had some of the most delicious food of our lives. I already want to go back!

What will you miss the most?

The structure of college is so unique. I've loved living in a walkable community, surrounded by people with similar values but differing perspectives. The ability to learn new, diverse subjects and the engagement opportunities in and outside the classroom are difficult to find anywhere else.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

It can be tempting to join 1,001 different things; I'd recommend picking one to two activities to devote yourself to and use the extra time to go to school events and develop relationships with other people. Never underestimate the value of a late-night ice cream run.

"Amanda exemplifies being an interdisciplinary scholar. She has a unique set of knowledge and skills in engineering, social systems and policies, ecology, and qualitative data analysis. This set of knowledge and skills combined with her work ethic, kindness and curiosity will serve her well. The environmental studies program will miss her leadership, but we are excited to know that professionals like Amanda are leading the way to sustainability. We know that she’ll make an enormous difference in the environmental field."

– Dr. Sarah Lashley, assistant professor, environmental studies