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Malaya Wade: Engineering a Better World

Engineers are known to be problem solvers. And engineering student Malaya Wade has no shortage of problems to solve on a daily basis.

Malaya is a facility project manager at the Rec Center, which means she spends her days coordinating student work schedules, taking care of maintenance projects, and managing the Rec’s equipment. “At any point, something can go wrong in the building with the lights, locker rooms, or the pool, and it keeps me on my toes at all times.”

It’s maybe not the first job that comes to mind when you think of getting experience for an engineering career, but Malaya’s experience at the Rec Center has been invaluable. It started as just a convenient on-campus job. Three years later, it’s become an opportunity to learn the inner workings of an 86,000-square-foot building. And with that many square feet, there’s so much to learn and so many people to learn from.

“I’ve been able to look at floor plans of the building and check out the electrical rooms inside the building. I was also able to be hands-on for the controllers in the pool pump room and learn how to backwash the pools and spa.”

Yes, there are always challenges for Malaya to help solve at the Rec. But maybe the biggest happened last spring, when the whole university – the whole world – was facing a challenge that was entirely out of the ordinary.

“When Covid-19 started becoming much more serious in March 2020, I was kind of nervous of universities closing and how we would be able to manage the building without most of our staff. Ordering cleaning supplies started becoming limited and finding the right disinfectant to keep areas sanitized for long periods of time was hard. I helped my boss order as many cleaning supplies as we could, and I was able to work 40 hours the week of spring break to help clean, catch up on admin work, and maintenance projects around the Rec Center.”

It’s not all about reacting to problems that pop up though. Her work at the Rec Center has given Malaya a perfect opportunity to put her environmental studies emphasis to use and look for ways to make the Rec Center more environmentally friendly. She’s been brainstorming ideas for some building improvements, and she plans to share some of those ideas with her supervisor, the facility foreman, this summer.

As for what’s ahead for Malaya, she’s hoping to take her problem-solving skills to a whole new level after she graduates in December. Yes, she wants to work as an engineer, especially for a company focused on sustainability. But her problem-solving dreams go beyond that. “I would like to give back to my hometown (Los Angeles) by creating a safe space for children in low funded communities.”

It may be her most significant problem to solve yet. But it’s a problem near and dear to her. “Growing up in a single parent household, it was hard for my mom to ask people to watch me, and she would get off of work late. My vision is creating affordable summer camps that will give children the opportunity to have somewhere to go when their parents are at work or they do not have someone to watch them.”

Ultimately, Malaya wants to help give children opportunities and dreams they didn’t know they could have. She’s not clear on the logistics just yet – her first step is finishing her degree – but she’s hopeful and determined to mark this problem solved.

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