Rachel Rose works four nights a week as an engineering assistant at the Babcock & Wilcox Company’s mPower reactor design facility in Lynchburg. She was grateful to earn that job after finding and completing an internship there over the summer.
By day Rose attends classes at Sweet Briar, carrying 16 hours as a second-year engineering science major. She’s a dean’s list student who, according to assistant professor of engineering Bethany Brinkman, is an active group participant and “brings a great practicality to classes because of her outside experience.”
The weekends are for her boys, Kendrick Jr., 17, and Keante, 11, fishing, playing ball and helping with homework. She also finds time to volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
Her family helps her, too.
“If not for their father and my family and the grace of God, I would not be able to do this,” Rose, who is divorced from her husband, says.
But the hard work is already paying dividends. Kendrick plans to study engineering at Emory & Henry next fall and her youngest says he also wants to be an engineer.
“They are very proud of their mom. … I am the first in three generations to go to college. I dropped out in 1993 but my coming back has shown them anything you want in life, you have to work for.”
Returning to school was a decision she came to the hard way. She lost a good manufacturing job in Lynchburg not long after training a new supervisor whose job she could clearly do but could never have without a college degree. She quickly found work she enjoyed, but it didn’t provide the financial stability she sought.
Rose hopes for a career in mechanical engineering and would be happy to stay at B&W. “I love the atmosphere and the team I’m on,” she says. “They are a great bunch of people and the work is challenging and different every day.”
Her main office is the engineering and design site for B&W’s new “scalable, modular” light water reactor. She also assists with tours at the company’s just-dedicated test facility at the Center for Advanced Engineering Research in Bedford County, where engineers will conduct ongoing design and safety performance tests on the reactor prototype.
Whatever company Rose eventually joins, she means to represent the College well, she says. “I am ready to give my all and show them the knowledge and skills the Sweet Briar engineering program has taught me.”
She is also prepared to be an example for all women, but especially black women, who are past college age. As a Turning Point student — Sweet Briar’s designation for non-traditional age students — she feels that her story can inspire others.
“I want to finish my schooling, get this degree and be successful, not only for my kids and my family, but for other minority [Turning Point] women. … After much work and devotion, you feel better about yourself and your journey. It’s never too late to go back to school and better yourself.”