A few weeks after he joined a freshman interest group, Frank Perera thought the biggest advantage was having friends nearby to offer academic support. Four years later, his view hasn’t changed.
“What I said before is still true. If we needed help, we went next door or got together in the KC Hall lounges. There was always someone there to explain their view. You got more out of it, and it cut down on study time.”
Perera graduated magna cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He recently began the Operations Leadership Development Program at Lockheed Martin in Rockville, Md. Designed to mold company leaders, the program features four six-month rotations in operations-related areas. It also pays for Perera’s M.B.A. at the University of Maryland, which he expects to complete in two to three years.
After that he’d like to continue working at Lockheed Martin or another defense contractor. He sees it as his patriotic duty, explaining that his father came to the United States from Mexico, earned a master’s and Ph.D. and enjoyed a productive career with 3M.
“This country gave my family and me opportunities to go to school,” he said. “I feel obligated to help my country give those same opportunities to others.”
As advertised, the FIG experience exposed Perera to the benefits of student involvement. He joined Student Congress, was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and served as president of Order of Omega, a leadership honor society for Greeks. He also was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honor society.
FIGFact: On average, FIG members make better grades than the general student population. Frank Perera graduated magna cum laude in 2008 with a 3.73 GPA.
“If I hadn’t joined a FIG, I might have been one of those students who went to school, went to work and went home,” he said. “I might never have gotten involved.”
Involvement fosters retention. Students who join organizations and make friends are more likely to return semester after semester. Perera became roommates with two members of his Honors Great Thinkers FIG.
“The experience is invaluable,” he said. “There’s a closeness you develop. It’s like a family of friends.”
Perera would have graduated in three years if not for an internship with Lockheed Martin in Arkansas. He also spent a summer in Houston working on Orion, a NASA spacecraft being designed by Lockheed Martin to transport crew members to the moon and Mars.
Mechanical engineering Professor Roger Goolsby remembers Perera as an enthusiastic student who worked hard and always sat on the front row.
“Frank was very intelligent, dependable and contributed eagerly in class,” Dr. Goolsby said. “He will be a great credit to our University and will do well in the engineering profession.”
Would Perera join a FIG again? Absolutely.
“The bond of friendship and family would help me strive to do better, not only for myself but for the University and for my friends.”
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