Kiana Hutt, the first student to be awarded a VCU College of Engineering completion grant, is a senior studying mechanical engineering. She grew up in Dinwiddie, Virginia, with three step-sisters and one brother. Her mother and stepfather are military veterans.
Her mother attended VCU, and Hutt remembers sometimes going to classes with her as a child, and this sparked her early interest in STEM. Hutt said her mother’s kindness and generosity inspired her to go into a field where she can help other people.
“When I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to design something like water filtration or artificial light systems — something that would help people in developing countries or areas of devastation,” Hutt recalled. “I talked to my mom about it and she said, ‘That sounds like mechanical engineering to me.’”
Around that time, Hutt’s extended family in Puerto Rico felt the impact of Hurricane Maria. When she visited them, she saw parts of the island that were still in ruins. This experience further strengthened her resolve to pursue a career in emergency management and disaster relief.
“It was a devastating experience, but it also fueled my connection to engineering,” she said.
Balancing the demands of engineering while also working many hours at Domino’s has been “a difficult journey, but so worth it,” Hutt said. She calls her education at VCU Engineering “the greatest gift.” Receiving support as she nears the finish line gave her “one less thing to worry about,” she added.
“The completion grant pushes me closer to my degree and closer to my goal of working to provide safe water access in disaster areas,” Hutt says. “Thank you for helping me get closer to my goal.”