Amber George loves to create.
That passion led her to study engineering at U-M, a journey that included campus leadership roles, an internship at NASA and efforts to help students of color feel more included and heard.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree this spring after completing the naval architecture and marine engineering program.
“I just wanted to be an engineer,” she said. “It didn’t matter if I was working on cars, boats or planes if I had the freedom to create these amazing things that make the world easier, better and more accessible.”
George, 22, was born in Detroit and moved to Saginaw as a teenager. She attended a high school that didn’t have many resources to prepare students for college, and the transition to U-M was rocky.
Early on, George had to retake two classes that were prerequisites for the engineering program. She refused to let the setback stop her from reaching her dream.
“I said, ‘I came here for an engineering degree. I won’t leave without one,’” she said.
A highlight of George’s U-M career was the summer she spent as an intern at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Among other projects, she helped design and test components of tools that are used to collect and store dirt from the surface of the moon.
She was also a part of a university Mars Rover team that created a rover to assist astronauts in the exploration of Mars-like environments.
George mentors younger students who are considering careers in engineering. She served on the executive board of U-M’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.
As a woman of color in a field typically dominated by white men, George said she sometimes felt isolated and invisible, especially during her first year in the engineering program. To help combat that, George co-founded a peer group that provides support and networking for women and students of color studying engineering.
“Our goal was to have a space in our department that acknowledged and celebrated who we were, even though we weren’t male or white students, or rich students,” she said. “We wanted a space where we could feel seen and acknowledged, and feel like we’re not the only ones who struggle with this particular thing.”
When George was 9, she learned about global warming at school. She came home that day and told her mom they needed to start recycling, cut down on water use and turn off the lights when no one was in a room.
That impactful lesson helped set the stage for George’s career path. She plans to stay at U-M and earn a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental justice.
She hopes to one day work to bring green energy to underprivileged inner-city communities like the ones where she grew up. People in those communities are often disproportionally affected negatively by environmental policies that lead to pollution and create health hazards, she said.
“My goal with this degree is to be a servant of these people, to be able to help change the way our country and our world uses energy, and consequently, the way that we as society treat marginalized communities,” George said.