When Natalie Villegas graduated from MSOE in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering, part of her knew she wasn’t leaving MSOE for good.

“At my core, I always knew that I was going to return to MSOE in some capacity. My personal mission is to make MSOE a welcoming and fulfilling place for all students.” 

Villegas is a project coordinator for the CREATE Institute at MSOE. She is in charge of facilitating project-based experiential learning (PBEL) opportunities with community and industry partners, which usually involve real-world projects in the Milwaukee community. She also oversees the CREATE Student Fellows and their projects and tasks.

Her latest project with the CREATE Institute is the implementation of EduSourced, a new experiential learning project management software. EduSourced allows students and faculty to receive and provide real-time feedback on projects via surveys, which enhances the learning experiences. It also enables students to seamlessly add files to project repositories, track project budgets and provide peer reviews via the 360-student review survey.

“The really nice thing about EduSourced is that it is a hub for collaboration among mentors, community and industry partners, faculty members and students on projects,” said Villegas.

Prior to joining MSOE, Villegas worked at Alexander Hamilton High School as a teacher in the Science and Tech Ed Departments. It was her experience there that connected her back to MSOE.

“DeAnna (Leitzke) and I remained in contact after I graduated. When I became a high school teacher, I had her come into my classroom to speak with my Project Lead The Way students. When she came in, she told me that she had the idea of starting a center for project-based experiential learning at MSOE. I jokingly told her to let me know when it opens and I would apply.”

Little did Villegas know, Leitzke put her ideas in motion and developed the CREATE Institute. Once Villegas completed her master’s degree in education from Mount Mary University, she proceeded to apply and, as she says, “the rest is history.”

Working at MSOE as an alumna gives Villegas a unique perspective on her position that helps her customize her projects.

“It feels great working somewhere that you have a personal connection to. It is fun to see professors that I once had in class. It’s even better when I get to work with them on projects. I think having a personal connection to MSOE definitely has its advantages. MSOE is a very unique place and you only really know the extent of its uniqueness when you go through it as a student,” said Villegas.

Back when she was a student, Villegas was originally drawn to MSOE because of its reputation. She played soccer all four years at MSOE and is grateful for the incredible friendships she built with her teammates.

“My education at MSOE helped me pivot and shift to my second career as an educator. The overall leadership preparation that MSOE offered gave me the confidence and self-awareness to make a career change.”

If you are an MSOE graduate and interested in working with students as a mentor, Villegas can help connect you. Email villegas@msoe.edu to learn more about the CREATE Institute alumni mentorship opportunities.