Industrial engineering student finds balance in life through dance

Emily Chambers
February 05, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During the semester, you may see Carolyn Duffett making the long journey across campus from the Leonhard Building to the Visual Arts Building. Once there, she trades in her safety glasses and steel-toed boots for ballet shoes and tights.

The dance studio has a completely different atmosphere than the factory lab setting of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. These two rooms easily summarize the two different lifestyles Duffett has lived throughout her time at Penn State. As an industrial engineering major with minors in business and dance, Duffett has learned the importance of balancing her different interests.

You could say engineering runs in Duffett’s family. Her father is an electrical engineer, and one of her brothers is a mechanical engineer. With her interests in math and science, it was no surprise that Duffett wanted to major in engineering. Her first minor, business, was influenced by her interest in the logistics of companies. Duffett’s business sense, coupled with her scientific and mathematical side, drove her to the industrial engineering major.

“I am really interested in the logistics of businesses and the valuations of them,” Duffett said.

How did someone who is interested in math, science and business end up with a second minor in dance? Duffett has been dancing almost her entire life. At age 3 she began dancing and, unlike the many students who quit after a few lessons, stuck with it throughout high school. Instead of giving it up after graduating, Duffett wanted to find a way to continue dancing while pursuing her other passions.

“I was between Penn State and Michigan because they both have strong industrial engineering programs,” she said. “When I visited the [Penn State] campus, it was so beautiful, and then I got accepted into Schreyer [Honors College]. That sealed the deal.”

With a challenging major coupled with being a Schreyer Scholar, Duffett quickly learned the importance of time management and finding an outlet for stress relief. 

During her freshman year, she joined the on-campus dance group Orchesis as a way to relieve her stress and continue with her childhood passion. The next year Duffett decided to take it one step further and auditioned for the Penn State Lionettes Dance Team. That same year she traveled with the team to Daytona, Florida, where the Lionettes won their third national championship. Now, during her senior year, Duffett is one of the team’s three captains.

Between an academically demanding schedule and Lionettes practice, Duffett said it can lead to “really long days.” She keeps her sanity through dance.

“It has always been a stress reliever for me,” she said. “It also gives me an outlet to express myself and my creativity.”

Duffett has used her time at Penn State to expose herself to new experiences. One of her favorite engineering courses offered a unique view of the field by focusing on the application of economics in engineering.

For her minor in dance, she took a class dedicated to choreography of Broadway shows. She said that although she isn’t planning on auditioning on Broadway, the experience was really fun.

Duffett’s experiences aren’t limited to University Park; she has participated in two study abroad programs. Her first study abroad experience was in Nantes, France, at Ecole Centrale de Nantes as part of the Penn State Global Engineering Design Program. While in France she contributed to a consulting project for a manufacturing company, MX.

The next year, Duffett traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to participate in the Dance in Dublin program for her minor. She was taught by international teachers and choreographers and attended several performances at the Dublin Dance Festival. Duffett’s unique opportunities abroad exposed her to different cultures’ professional practices in both engineering and dance.

Duffett has also built up her resume through internships. The summer after her sophomore year, she interned with FedEx Ground in her hometown of Pittsburgh. Throughout the summer she worked on creating a Microsoft SharePoint website for the use of the Inbound Operations Engineering group. Her site was used by more than 40 inbound operations engineering specialists nationwide.

This past summer Duffett interned with Ernst & Young in New York. As an intern she helped develop various business valuations models that would be used in mergers and acquisitions, impairment and financial reporting.

As if a challenging academic schedule and the demands of being a Lionette aren’t enough, Duffett is also involved in multiple community service organizations. THON is an organization that she holds “very close to [her] heart.” Duffett has acted as a committee member during all fours years at Penn State.

In the past she has been a mentor in the Engineering Orientation Network and SHO TIME, the Schreyer Honors College Orientation. As a University athlete, Duffett is part of Penn State Athletes Take Action (PSATA). PSATA is a group of student-athletes from various sports that visit local middle schools to discuss bullying.

“I enjoy giving back to the University as well as the Penn State community in any way that I can,” Duffett said.

Though she has many commitments, Duffett has managed to stay on top of her studies. As a Schreyer Scholar, she has to maintain a GPA of at least 3.40. Carolyn is also one of 18 Marcus Scholars at Penn State. The Marcus Scholarship Fund was created by Penn State industrial engineering alumnus Harold Marcus and his wife, Inge. It is an annual merit-based award created to “support outstanding undergraduate students” majoring in industrial engineering. Duffett has been a recipient of the scholarship twice during her college career.

"After countless hours of studying and plenty of sleepless nights, I can now say it has all been worth it,” she said. “I have learned so much in my field, and I am really looking forward to graduating in May with a B.S. in industrial engineering from an incredible university.”

Duffett’s hard work these past four years has paid off; she has accepted a job after graduation — with Ernst & Young, the same company she interned with over the summer. She said she is excited about beginning this first stage of her career at a company that she likes and with “great people.”

Graduating doesn’t mean the end of Duffett’s dancing. She said she plans to keep dancing, whether it is by taking classes or teaching dance classes herself.

Her plan for the future is to "be happy, keep dancing and help people.”

  • Duffett in front of the Eiffel Tower during her study abroad experience in Paris.

    Duffett in front of the Eiffel Tower during her study abroad experience in Paris.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Duffett as a participant in THON.

    Duffett has participated in THON during all four of her years at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Carolyn Duffett

    Duffett has managed to balance life as a Schreyer Scholar in a difficult major with two minors in addition to being a member of the Penn State Lionettes.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated February 05, 2016