If you ask Tanzania Sewell ’12—she is sitting in between the best of two worlds. The biomedical engineering alumna is enjoying a fulfilling career at GE Healthcare, where she is lead electrical engineer, and sharing her industry experience with future engineers in the classroom as an adjunct assistant professor at MSOE in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department.
“It’s tremendously rewarding,” Sewell said.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Sewell chose MSOE for her education because of the university’s graduate outcomes rate and the student-to-faculty ratio. “I wanted to be at a university where I felt like I was more than a number. That student-teacher connection was important to me.”
Sewell wanted to work in the health care space and make a big impact, so she decided to study biomedical engineering. “I had the realization that as a physician you are often limited by the tools at your disposal. Engineers can develop that new technology.”
While she was in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree, Sewell secured a full-time role in GE Healthcare’s Edison Engineering Development Program, an intense 2-year technical and leadership training regimen. “Edisons” are on rotational assignments completing engineering projects driven by real business priorities. In addition to the advanced engineering course work, Sewell was able to earn credit toward an M.S. degree in electrical engineering, which she completed at Marquette University in 2016.
“The fact that I am back on the other side of things—teaching at MSOE—is a testament to how great an experience I had as an undergrad.”
A challenge that still faces the university, and engineering professions in general, is increasing diversity. “As a student it’s hard to visualize yourself being in a specific career if you haven’t been exposed to someone who looks like you or speaks like you,” Sewell said. “But there is also the preparation side of things. A high school student interested in engineering needs to know not just what it takes to get into college, but what sort of high school classes they need to take to prepare them for the challenges that lay ahead and scholarships available that will enable them to dedicate more time to studying.”
Once students take that path toward becoming an engineer, they need the university to support them. “They need to feel like they have a place outside of academics that they can call home—whether it’s a student org, or sports—like it was for me. I competed in cross country and track and for me those teams were my home away from home.”
Sewell reaches students who might not otherwise be exposed to engineering and STEM concepts through her role as programs chair in the National Society of Black Engineers Milwaukee Area Professionals Chapter. Her most recent event, Beyond STEM, was a six-week hands-on program that introduced 30 middle school students to the role engineering plays in daily life. MSOE’s collegiate chapter of NSBE pitched in to help.
“Growing up in Milwaukee and still being here as a professional has been tremendous in empowering me to be a part of the change I’d like to see realized,” Sewell said. “I’m driven to continue to grow both as a professor and as an engineer. I can be a role model to the generations that come after me. It’s humbling to see the amount of passion and potential in our younger generations.”