Photo courtesy of Grant Grussing

Exemplifying the ideals of progress and service, Veronica “Ronnie” Foreman, AE ‘14, is a prime example of a yellow jacket who has followed her passions with grace, humility, drive and true Tech spirit. Now studying for her masters at MIT, she imparts her wisdom on Tech students,  not just study tips, but advice on how attitude makes all the difference.

Technique: What was your experience in transitioning to graduate school at MIT?  How did Tech prepare you?

Foreman: I don’t know if I could have had better preparation for MIT than Georgia Tech. I loved everything about being a Georgia Tech student. It was a part of me. I will always be a Yellow Jacket. Tech fueled that ‘go-getter’ attitude that a lot of graduate students at MIT have and taught me to be excited about new challenges. So, coming into graduate school I never had a sense of being nervous or wanting to shy away from anything. I felt prepared to start the challenge. It’s definitely been a lot to take on, but it’s fun.

I’m working on two masters degrees, one in Aeronautics and Astronautics, with a focus on space and satellite systems, and the second one is a Technology and Policy degree. I’m working on both because I think that there’s a really important place for engineers to advocate for their own work. In the public realm, it means they’re explaining to people why what they do matters, and from a policy perspective, I think it means explaining to the American voter why space and science programs should be funded, why they’re important, and what benefits they offer.

Technique: Do you have words of wisdom for Tech students?

Foreman: Really make the most of [your experience at Tech]. The opportunities that I had at Georgia Tech one hundred percent paved the way for everything I have done. I had phenomenal professors, I had amazing friends, and being a Tech student and really embracing everything that it has to offer is what opens doors. I think that being the best Tech student I could be and by seeking the “work hard, play hard” attitude as much as I could, I became prepared for grad school at MIT. I did work hard at Tech, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t because I worked so hard that opportunities opened up; it was because I had so much fun that the next challenge seemed like the exciting next
step to take.

Also, I had the greatest friends a person could possibly ask for. I had those nights where I was completely drowning in homework, had three tests the next day, and we’d just drop everything and drive to Krispy Kreme. It was the type of friend group that I know will be people who will be in my life forever. They were the people who I went to the homecoming game with this semester, so when we stormed the field it was like nothing had changed. I don’t know how I would have done it without a really good friend group. I was incredibly fortunate to have a broad support network that included people who were Tech students, faculty, staff and people within the broader Atlanta community.

Technique: What are some of the most prominent experiences at Tech that shaped your path to where you are now?

Foreman: The President’s Scholarship program was absolutely one of them. It is a phenomenal group of kind and talented people. I learned a lot by working with them. Within PSP, I was also fortunate to be a Stamps Leadership Scholar, which was an incredible opportunity to meet students from around the world who were making a difference early in their careers. I was incredibly lucky to be a part of that group.

Alpha Omega Epsilon, definitely. Being surrounded by ambitious women who really were unapologetically themselves — everyone in that organization is incredibly independent, strong-willed and [many are] tremendous role models for me. I have no idea how I could be where I am today if it weren’t for them.

Undergraduate research also played a huge role in my desire to go to graduate school and use my work to help make advances within the field of aerospace engineering. I started off doing research in the Economics Department, which was the first opportunity I had to do research, and it really fueled that interest. Then I did different projects within the Aerospace Systems Design Lab and Space Systems Design Lab, both within the AE department. They were each incredible opportunities, which I was not only fortunate to have, but also helped shape me into the student I am today. The research I did with Dr. [David] Spencer in the Aerospace Department was the reason I selected the program I did at MIT; it was just such exciting and interesting work that I knew it was what I wanted to pursue longer term. I also interned with CNN and SpaceX, both of which were awesome opportunities.

Technique: Who is your greatest role model and why?

Foreman: One of them is definitely my younger sister, Ali, who is also Tech student. To be totally honest, she’s just incredibly tough. She’s really creative, she’s smart, and she’s always encouraged me. We’ve honestly been best friends as well as sisters, and even though she’s younger, I often go to her for advice. She really did a lot in terms of teaching me how to see potential in myself. When she believes in you, you want to believe in yourself.

Beyond that, I was incredibly lucky to have the support of the entire aerospace department at Tech. All of my professors, actually, not just within the aerospace department. I can’t just pick one because they were all so supportive, and encouraged me to pursue my passions.

Technique: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment or accomplishments?

Foreman: I was named a Graduate Research Fellow by the National Science Foundation this year, and that is probably my greatest accomplishment to date, especially because of how it is awarded.  The fundamental criteria they judge you on are broader impacts and scientific merit, and that essentially boils down to ‘Progress and Service’. Receiving the award also felt like an accomplishment that was bigger than me; it felt like they were recognizing what a great education I received as a Georgia Tech student, as if they were saying, “You have this amazing Georgia Tech education, now go do even more with it,” and that really felt good. It’s an incredible honor.

I did some research in Antarctica too, through a program with another school, which I was able to find because of the resources in the PSP. The trip was awesome. Being able to represent Georgia Tech in Antarctica was fantastic. I took a GT flag with me that Dr. Peterson gave to me right before I left. When he went to Antarctica with the National Science Foundation, he took this amazing picture with a Tech Flag at McMurdo Station, and I think that image is what first inspired me to go to Antarctica. After I saw it, I wanted to take Tech’s colors with me everywhere I went, so getting a flag as a gift from him to take with me to Antarctica, to take my own version of that photo was incredibly important to me. It was a testament to me that no one at Tech is ‘just another student.’ Everyone has tremendous value. I felt supported by him in that, and I know that he has that respect for every student at Tech. All of our faculty members do, and that’s part of what makes Tech so special.

Being a Ms. Georgia Tech finalist was also important to me because it was recognition of how much I want to be someone who embodies the Yellow Jacket spirit. Being recognized for that passion for our school and representing a group of women who I believe in so much was a really exciting moment. I had such a great time at Tech – the best part was genuinely being there. I would go back in a heartbeat. It was a very hard decision for me to not stay there for grad school, but I was excited to take my Tech experience with me and share it with my new colleagues at MIT, too. I’ll always be a Yellow Jacket, though. Tech is home.