Senior juggles three majors, values Opportunity Vanderbilt

Jacqueline Machesky represents just one of the nearly 9,000 students whose lives have been changed by the Opportunity Vanderbilt financial aid initiative.

Oldest sister, Vanderbilt student, steel bridge builder.

These are just a few of the hats that senior Jacqueline Machesky wears. During her time on campus, she’s been fascinated by the annual steel bridge competition hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This spring, she’ll be the one competing. She and teammates Nathan Grosser and Don Whyte aim to build the bridge as quickly as possible, ensuring its weight bearing load is as high as possible while costs are kept low.

new Opportunity Vanderbilt story - Jackie Machesky is a scholarship recipient and we want to capture a picture of her with her scholarship award letter, photos by: Susan Urmy

photo by: Susan Urmy

“Vanderbilt supplies the materials, and we do all the calculations, design and welding work for the 15-20 foot long bridge,” said Machesky, whose enthusiasm for this Senior Design project is undeniable.

Machesky’s early interest in tinkering and building made engineering a natural focus in her college search, though no one in her family had an engineering background. “My parents were very supportive of me going to college, and my mom suggested I look at Vanderbilt. Coming from a family of five children though, I knew that I would be paying my own way,” said Machesky.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native remembers receiving her admission letter and scholarship award, which made Vanderbilt as affordable as her in-state option, and more affordable than her out-of-state options. For many students, coming to Vanderbilt is made possible by the university’s Opportunity Vanderbilt initiative, which replaces loans with scholarships and grants for undergraduate students with financial need.

photo by: Susan Urmy

To this day, Machesky, who is the recipient of the Schiff Family Scholarship, keeps that award letter safe in her room.

Machesky has taken full advantage of her Vanderbilt experience. Her initial jitters and nervousness were made better by the community she found at Gillette Hall. She speaks of Vanderbilt’s diversity and loves exploring campus and Nashville with people “who are very different from myself—but who are all very open and very hard-working.” She cherishes memories from all of the events and dances she’s attended, even while juggling three demanding majors: civil engineering, physics and mathematics.

While admittedly a planner by nature, a chance encounter with Doug Adams, the Daniel F. Flowers Chair, turned out to be a career changer. When Machesky heard Adams talk about his aerospace work, she was intrigued enough to change an already-planned summer internship to one with him. She ended up working with Adams in his 20,000-square-foot lab on helicopters, creating models for vibration and understanding impact damage for risk and reliability research.

While she still enjoys the “structure stuff,” Machesky now plans on applying to graduate schools for aerospace engineering.

Machesky reflects on her time at Vanderbilt with gratitude. “I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything. I’ve met truly incredible people, and I know it’s financially possible for me to go straight to graduate school. Coming here changed my life.”

Clearly Machesky will have the chance to cross many bridges in the future—even if she’s not building them.