Kenneth Andersen ’23, School of Engineering

Kenneth Andersen reflects on his time at UConn

Portrait of Kenneth Andersen, Jr

Portrait of Kenneth Andersen, Jr., taken on April 13, 2023. (Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)

Kenneth Andersen Jr. says the decision to come to UConn to study mechanical engineering was a no-brainer. From the connections he has made with professors to the array of food available in the dining halls, his experiences have affirmed he made the right choice and set him on the right path, including landing an internship with NASA. Andersen hopes to encourage others to put themselves out there and dream big.

What’s your major/field of study, and what drew you to it and why did you choose UConn?

In seventh grade, I had a science teacher pull me aside during class one day and ask if I had ever heard of engineering. She described it as an education that focused heavily on math and science, both subjects I had shown promise in, and would allow me to work on everything from airplanes to buildings. From that day I figured it was better to have a goal I didn’t really understand than no goal at all and it served me well. I chose to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering because I didn’t like the idea of boxing myself into a specialty before I had a chance to explore my options. Mechanical engineering covers a variety of subjects most of which sounded interesting, and I looked forward to learning.

Choosing UConn was simple. It was close enough to home to give my parents peace of mind, far enough away that I could explore my independence, and large enough that I knew I would be meeting students from all walks of life. Having attended a public high school, I figured attending a public university would have just as many opportunities for growth with partnered companies and a vast alumni network.

What activities were you involved in as a student?

During my first three years I was heavily involved with the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Louis Stokes Alliance for minority participation, and the Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center. These organizations were places I could find a sense of belonging and purpose as we worked to build a community on campus and serve the communities all around Connecticut. In my last year I’ve made the decision to focus on myself as I prepare to enter the workforce but will be forever grateful to these groups for all that they’ve done and allowed me to do.

Any advice for incoming students?

Some advice for incoming students is to apply for everything and talk to everyone. Not everything is going to be a success but not everything has to be. By exploring your options and expanding your network you may find yourself in positions you never thought possible, as I did. The first job fair I attended was during my sophomore year when I had little to offer any organization. However, by having a simple conversation with one employer he saw promise and offered me an internship for the summer. The following year I used that experience in my application to NASA’s Pathways Internship Program at Johnson Space Center and received an offer. This experience changed my life and wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t confident enough to attend the career fair as a sophomore and speak to a stranger about the little I had done in the three semesters I had been at UConn. Don’t focus on who you are today, work towards who you want to be in the future.

What’s one thing everyone should do during their time at UConn?

Go to sporting events. Win, lose, or draw there’s nothing like D1 college sports.

What will always make you think of UConn?

For me, college consisted of so many experiences but it’s the cuisine that will stick with me the most. I mean, when am I ever going to have access to this much food. With all the dining halls on campus, each serving their own menu you know I put that meal plan to work. I think I’m one of the few students that UConn actually lost money on despite having the most expensive plan. And yes, I use all my points every time.