Student Spotlight: Kristen Alvarado

Zoey Bigelow

Kirsten Alvarado

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Class Standing: Senior

Hometown: Eagle River, AK


What brought you to the UAA College of Engineering?

Alaska is my home, it's where I lived and worked. I wasn't ready to leave the state and when I toured UAA, I saw that it was a great option. The faculty and staff in the UAA College of Engineering are friendly, helpful, smart, and respectful. UAA was a fantastic choice for Engineering School. I'll sure miss it.


Why did you choose Mechanical Engineering?

I have always wanted to be an Air Force fighter pilot, and that dream has never faded. I wanted to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering because I knew it would build me up to be a better pilot and Air Force officer. The schooling has developed my way of thinking to use logic and work through problems that initially seemed impossible. It's prepared me to never give up and patiently work through things. Most importantly, it taught me that hard work is really all it takes.


What opportunities have you been involved in on campus, and how have they contributed to your personal and professional growth?

I did two exchanges through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program, and doing those exchanges changed everything for me. I got to live in a small town in Idaho for a semester, and Honolulu, Hawaii for another semester. There's no way to sum up the ways I grew while on exchange. I would never give those experiences up for anything. It was extremely affordable, but it also took hard work to ensure everything transfers.


Have you been involved with internships, research, study abroad, or any other experience you’d like to tell us about?

I joined the Alaska Air National Guard right before I graduated high school. With a passion to serve in the military and the desire to get a college degree, this option was too good to be true, and honestly still is. Now, I've been in the Air Force for 7 years, I'm finishing my degree without any debt, and I'm on track to accomplishing my goals and dreams. There were others in my unit who wanted to do the same thing as me, but became distracted with paychecks and full time employment. I try to encourage everyone in a similar place to look further and visualize the future. Now that I’ve completed my degree, I look back and remember how difficult it was to turn down a full time job for a very challenging degree, and I’m so glad I did.


What words of wisdom do you have for underclassmen or youth who are still considering their options after high school?

It doesn't matter what you want to do or where you are now, the thing that will get you to your goals is hard work. When I was in high school, my grades were poor and I was never regarded as ‘the smart one’. One day, I met a female fighter pilot who believed in me and told me I can do it, and that was all it took to change everything. I began pursuing something I always thought was impossible, and now, it's never felt so real. There were times I thought I was bound for failure, but choosing to work through seemingly impossible tasks gradually made everything possible. In a few days, I will be graduating with honors in a competitive degree, and that's something I never saw coming. No matter what your dream is, or whoever tells you that you don't have what it takes, you do. The one thing you need to do is work hard, that’s it. Accept the challenges unique to you, and just move one step at a time without ever losing sight of your dreams.


Who is your favorite professor or staff member and why?

Easy. Dr. Jennifer Brock. She's the best of the best. You might have to take a class of hers to understand because there is just no way to sum it up. She makes her classes fun (seriously, I didn't think someone could be so passionate about thermodynamics), she's incredibly smart, and best of all, she cares so much for her students. She's willing to go so far out of her way to help you out. She's inspiring in every way possible.


What is your favorite quote?

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." John 1:5


Zoey with daughterWhat hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

Lots of things, Alaska is so fun! I got my pilot's license and love to fly more than anything else. I also love riding my motorcycle, hiking, ice skating, snowboarding, fishing, and spending time with my husband doing anything because he's awesome!

Do you know a UAA College of Engineering student who would make a great student spotlight? Please encourage them to fill out our questionnaire.