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Maya Ellis ’23

BS, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Maya knows that finding her community within WPI has made a huge impact on her success as a student. Her faculty mentors also helped her grow personally and professionally in her academic pursuits. “Professor Hall-Phillips has helped guide me in times of doubt and is a wonderful person to talk to if you need advice, or just someone to listen to you,” she says. “Professor Bhada stepped in to help me work through next steps for my academic career. She also introduced me to research within the ECE Department at WPI. Through this research, I continue to learn more about applying systems engineering to different topics, which has made me interested in pursuing a master's in systems engineering.”

Completing an Interactive Qualifying Project has its challenges, and the pandemic added a need for flexibility. She says completing her IQP has “got to be the hardest thing I’ve had to do at WPI, especially during a pandemic. I didn’t feel relief until after I received my grade back! My IQP was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but was originally supposed to be in Tirana, Albania. The project focused on exploring past community experiences about natural disasters to initiate organized preparedness and response for the future. We investigated the concept of the community as first responders, analyzing models for Place Attachment, Zero-Order Responders, and adapting the Model for Disaster Resiliency of Place. We gathered stories from the Piñones community members about natural disasters. We then produced two videos about disaster response across generations, a Spanish-language podcast, and large-scale outreach material for the community.”  

Maya’s confidence in herself and as a STEM student has grown significantly since first starting at WPI. “I came into WPI lacking confidence that I was meant to be here in the first place. I struggled with education, and I didn't feel like I fit in. I rarely asked for help because I didn't want to sound like a lost cause,” she says. “I eventually found the NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) and Black Student Union community. NSBE led me to Professor Hall-Phillips, the current NSBE advisor, who has offered me unforgettable amounts of support, guidance, and connections through my time at WPI. As someone who grew up attending a predominantly white school since age 5, it was a breath of fresh air to find people who looked like me AND had the same goals as I did. This grew my confidence, and I began reaching out more and making myself more involved within WPI's community. Without this community, personal growth, and learning through NSBE, I don't know if I would be in the positions that I am in or have the same communication and leadership skills that I have now.”

The project-based curriculum at WPI has helped Maya feel more prepared for life after graduation. She says, “Personally, being taught theory only does not compare to getting the hands-on experience that I've found through my research and academic labs at WPI. I've learned even more than what I would have learned studying only theory.” She advises prospective WPI students to “be prepared to work hard and not give up, especially when subjects do not come naturally to you.”

After graduation, Maya plans to work in the telecommunications or defense industry with a systems engineering focus. She knows that what sets WPI graduates apart is the discipline they must have to ultimately be successful in their coursework. The capstone courses “require students to learn to work under pressure and still complete good work,” she says. “This also applies to the quarter system (courses run half semester terms). Students need to quickly grasp the material. There’s definitely a discipline that a student needs to have to successfully complete their education at WPI.” 

Maya's headshot

Troy, NY

Faculty Mentor
  • Prof. Adrienne Hall-Phillips, associate professor, The Business School 
  • Prof. Shamsnaz Virani Bhada, assistant professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Cooking
  • Learning
  • Reading

Campus Activities

  • President, National Society of Black Engineers
  • LSAMP Scholar
  • WPI Campus Champion Mentor
  • Campus Hearing Board
  • Student Support Network
  • Board of Trustees Mentorship Program
  • Women's Varsity Track and Field
  • Black Student Union
It was a breath of fresh air to find people who looked like me AND had the same goals as I did. This grew my confidence, and I began reaching out more and making myself more involved within WPI's community.