While it’s no secret that engineering is a historically male-dominated field, Arafeh says she actively tries to encourage as many people as she can – especially younger, female students – to get into engineering, telling them that it’s a completely feasible field with a rewarding end goal.
“To me, it’s motivating because it makes you want to work harder and drives you to be the best engineer that you can – not to prove yourself, but to show that women are very interested in engineering too, and that it’s a great field to be in,” she explains. “It’s making the workforce more diverse.”
The Nuclear Development co-op and University of Alabama at Birmingham senior is already standing out as an unstoppable leader in her field. She was recently awarded two major honors by UAB: Outstanding Undergraduate Student Engineer in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and Outstanding Undergraduate Student Engineer of the Year for the School of Engineering – both of which came with a scholarship.
She is president of the UAB chapter of Chi Epsilon, the national civil engineering honor society, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers UAB chapter, and an active member of SNC’s corporate chapter of WIN.
Arafeh, a Birmingham native, says she always excelled in math and science, and was inspired by her older brother to pursue engineering.
“My older brother is a civil engineer, so he encouraged me to look into engineering while I was in high school,” shared Arafeh, who has interest in sustainable structures, a combination of civil and environmental engineering. “I really enjoy it, and it comes easy to me. I think it’s really cool, the idea of being able to drive by structures and see your project physically and know you had a role in that.”
Arafeh is in her second rotation as a co-op at Southern Nuclear, and will be doing a third rotation in the fall. She says her real-world work in the Nuclear Development department has been an asset to her educational experience, and vice versa.
“It’s definitely allowing me to be more involved in meaningful work because I can understand how my coursework affects a project and make that connection between school and the work I’m doing here,” she said, adding, “After I took a class on construction management, when I came back to SNC for my next rotation, I felt like I knew so much more because I was more familiar with that vocabulary and those ideas.”
Arafeh is looking forward to her third rotation as an SNC co-op and excited to see where her career takes her. “My team has become like a second family, and I’ve made really great connections here,” she said of her experience at SNC.
She offers this advice to young girls considering a career in engineering: “I would tell them to do it! If they show interest in science and math and making the world a better place – which is what engineering really is – they should look into it and not let anything stop them.”