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Graduate Spotlight: Bryce Messer

By Joe Garvey

For many students, landing that first post-graduate job is one of the peak moments of their college experience.

Old Dominion University senior Bryce Messer was ona peak when he got his job offer.

Messer, who will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace engineering and a minor in engineering management on May 11, was snowboarding at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado over spring break when he received an email from a representative of Lockheed Martin who asked to schedule a phone interview. Messer had spoken with recruiters for the defense contractor at a career fair in Washington, D.C., a few weeks earlier.

"I responded saying that I would be at the top of a mountain snowboarding during the time he suggested, but that I was more than willing to take a break for the call," Messer said. "I was expecting him to offer to reschedule, but he responded and confirmed the interview, which was awesome.

"So, I was literally snowboarding on top of a mountain in Colorado when I took a break and called him. He talked to me about the job and asked me some questions about my work experience and ended up offering me the job while we were on the phone."

"It was an unforgettable spring break."

Messer, a Perry Honors College student, will be an operations engineer for Lockheed Martin once his security clearance is processed.

"That was huge for me," he said. "They're the No. 1 defense contractor in the world."

Messer was home-schooled in Virginia Beach and dual-enrolled at Tidewater Community College before starting at ODU. His older brother, Westin, is a biomedical engineering graduate student at ODU. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for the support I've always had from my brother," Messer said.

"I was able to commute from home and save a lot of money on living costs and as well as attend a university that has a great engineering program," he added. "It worked out in my favor for multiple reasons."

He admitted that he found engineering school to be a challenge at first.

"I jumped right into calculus-based physics and was overwhelmed right off the bat because I had never taken a physics class before," he said. "I remember thinking "There's no way that I'm going to be able to do engineering.' I had a scholarship that I didn't think I would be able to keep the GPA requirement for. Then my brother said, 'You know, I felt the same exact way when I was a freshman, but it's really not that bad. You get used to it, you adjust your study habits and you figure it out.' So that's what I did."

Today he carries a 3.89 grade-point average.

He's also grown in other ways.

He completed internships with Newport News Shipbuilding and Stihl, Inc.; served as president of Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society; and held leadership roles in two undergraduate research projects.

"Integrating course work, civic engagement, experiential learning and undergraduate research, the Perry Honors College curriculum works for students like Bryce," said David Metzger, dean of the Honors College. "Our curriculum isn't more work for them; they learn that it's what they need to do in order get where they want to go."

At Newport News Shipbuilding, Messer split time between the electrical and mechanical engineering departments.

"I got to see both sides of the spectrum of two of the major fields of engineering," he said. "I also got to experience what it was like to work for a large company. Newport News Shipbuilding is enormous, and I was able to gauge what size company I'd like to work for in the future."

He worked as an industrial engineer at Stihl. His main project was to do an analysis of the assembly lines. "My supervisor was impressed with the project I worked on and he had me present my work to his supervisor," Messer said. "Then my supervisor's supervisor liked it so much that he presented it to his supervisor, who was the vice president of operations. It was really exciting, and I was proud of the work that I did."

He joined Tau Beta Pi as a junior and became president as a senior. He said the organization focuses on social, professional and STEM outreach events, which included an introduction to robotics with Girl Scouts, presentations at local elementary schools and judging science fairs. He said that an additional benefit to his presidency was that it helped him improve his public-speaking and leadership skills.

"There have been so many opportunities that ODU has given me over the past four years that have helped me grow as a person, outside of academics," he said. "It's amazing how large the school feels when you're a freshman and how small it feels when you're a senior."

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