Wright Engineering Access Scholarship Student Q&A: Landen Sabolski

Mechanical engineering sophomore and first-generation student, Landen Sabolski, aspires to ‘pay it forward.’

Landen Sabolski

What was it like transitioning from a high school to a college student?

The shift from high school to college turned out to be easier than I had imagined. Making the 20-hour trip from Dallas, Texas to Richmond allowed me to hit the reset button and form new friendships that would support me not just during my college years, but beyond. Given my strong work ethic and the fact that I took many dual enrollment courses throughout high school, adjusting to the academic side of things wasn't too challenging. The main obstacle was ensuring a solid work/life balance to keep me motivated to study and keep up in my courses during the week.

Why did you choose VCU?

I chose VCU Engineering for a variety of reasons, and one of the big ones was wanting to be part of VCU Engineering's growing reputation in the region. The opportunities to dive into top-notch research with experienced professors really stuck out to me.

Plus, you can't find another school with such different geographical areas within an hour from campus– city life just a few blocks away, the river right across the bridge and the Shenandoah Valley only an hour away. It had everything I was looking for. Additionally, professors in the VCU College of Engineering all love what they do and enjoy helping students when they need it.

What does this scholarship mean to you?

The Wright Engineering Access Scholarship is the reason I was able to attend college for engineering. Being a recipient of this scholarship is something I'm incredibly grateful for, and I aspire to pay it forward one day, changing other students' lives just as mine was.

As a first-generation college student diving into the world of engineering, the significance of getting this degree is quite special to me. Being a recipient of this scholarship is something I'm incredibly grateful for, and I aspire to pay it forward one day, changing other students' lives just as mine wasThis scholarship, which was granted for academic excellence, serves as a constant motivator for me.

To me, it is more than just a grade. It's a reminder of the support and people believing in me, urging me to strive for the best no matter what challenges I face. With this scholarship, I'm living out the career dreams my younger self had, and it is an amazing feeling to be making it a reality.

What drew you to mechanical engineering?

Ever since I was a kid I loved taking things apart to figure out how they worked, occasionally struggling to put them back together, (sorry, mom and dad, especially for that oven I could not fix).

I attended a tech school for my last two years of high school. There, I got experience with 3D printing, computer aided design (CAD) modeling, welding and utilizing CAD drawings to create assemblies.The experience I gained from the tech center reassured me I was making the right decision by going into engineering. The idea of thinking outside the box and finding innovative ways to tackle problems has always been my passion.

What are your classes like? Do you have a professor or lesson that has stuck with you?

Getting through classes has never been a walk in the park for me. There's always a challenge to overcome; however, even when I hit a rough patch there's this spark of interest that keeps me going, pushing me not to give up but to better understand the material.

In the fall of 2023, everything just clicked in Mechanics of Deformables (EGMN 202) when Professor Guven (Ibrahim Guven, Ph.D.,) started drawing connections between our example problems and real-world scenarios. It completely changed how I approach homework. Now, I make a habit of thinking beyond the problem to visualize its real-world applications.

Did you have anyone helping you through the college search process?

While exploring VCU Engineering on my own and conducting research, I was fortunate to receive an abundance of support from my family. Considering I had always lived at home with them, the idea of moving across the country to an entirely new place was frightening. Their unwavering support and guidance meant the world to me and provided the motivation I needed to see my degree through to the end, with the ultimate goal of making my family proud.

During your time at VCU, have you used any faculty, staff or services to help you in college?

I actively engage with resources, such as speaking with professors and career services, to discover relevant connections. The support and guidance I've received are laying a solid foundation for future opportunities. The involvement of VCU Engineering faculty not only highlights the university's dedication to student growth, but also gives me the resources needed to find an internship in the near future.

What are your career goals? What are you hoping to do upon graduation?

My interest with airplanes and the intricacies of flight has been a lifelong passion. Majoring in mechanical engineering was a deliberate choice of mine, driven by my aspiration to gain  knowledge across diverse engineering fields for a successful career. Looking forward, I aim to secure an internship with an aerospace company, with the ultimate goal of transitioning into a full-time role after graduation. Furthermore, I see myself advancing my education by pursuing a master's degree in aerospace engineering, increasing my expertise to significantly contribute to the aerospace industry.

What hobbies or passions do you pursue in your free time?

Before entering college, I dedicated a significant amount of my life to playing soccer at a highly competitive level. Recognizing the demanding nature of an engineering major, I consciously chose to prioritize academics during my college career. Nevertheless, I found an outlet in VCU's men’s club soccer team, allowing me to decompress away from schoolwork while maintaining my passion for competitive soccer. Beyond my academic and athletic commitments, I also enjoy watching sports and hanging out with friends. 

Do you have advice for incoming students? Is there a class that you think everyone should take? A club they should consider joining? What would you tell others about your major?

My primary advice for incoming engineering students is to persevere. Recognize that engineering is a challenging field that requires dedication and hard work. A positive mindset during difficult times is crucial for maintaining the determination needed to succeed. During my freshman year, I took the class Great Inventions (EGMN 111), which I highly recommend. Hearing about different inventions that have significantly impacted our lives allows for a deeper understanding of personal interests and helps shape the direction of one's academic journey.

I advise individuals to find their own fit within engineering and seek groups such as professional fraternities or clubs in their area of interest. VCU Engineering provides so many resources to support students on their academic journey and help them achieve success in their engineering careers.