Name: Elaina Plinke
Age: 19 years young
Location: Champaign, IL
Occupation: Being studious
Elaina Plinke is a Civil/Environmental Engineering major at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Running wild in the library, this diligent student is hitting the books this summer for her science and math courses in the hope of graduating on time, even in light of the fact that she took a leap and switched her major from Business.
As a summer student, she’s up at the crack of dawn, indulging in people watching on public transportation as she gets to campus. From Chemistry class to working in the Education building, then Calculus 2 to doing homework at home, Elaina is the quintessential bookworm and butt-busting brainiac. But all of this work has a purpose, Elaina hopes to save the world. Seriously!
“It makes me feel okay about the world to know there’s people in my generation who know we only have one earth to live on and much of it really isn’t ours to take,” she says. “What I like about engineering is that you’re either creating something or fixing something, allowing innovation rather than the exclusive exploitation of other people’s money.”
It makes me feel okay about the world to know there’s people in my generation who know we only have one earth to live on and much of it really isn’t ours to take.
After years of being “that super obnoxious girl who passive aggressively condemns my friends when I see them throw their water bottles in the trash,” she decided to follow the same path as her father, who is also a civil engineer. Elaina’s involvement in her high-school environmental club also helped to influence her academic switch. Even though her schooling is rigorous, she’s making steps towards restructuring the way that society as a whole views their impact on the environment as a whole. Socially, though, life can sometimes get daunting when one is surrounded by so many like-minded students. “I always joke that I want to create a “Cut Down Trees” club next year, but in all seriousness I love all the people you find on a college campus concerned with the health of the environment.”
Elaina credits her family for helping her to feel secure in her choice to make such a “major” change. “My parents have always given me a very interesting balance of encouragement and independence. They’ve instilled in me the notion that I can do whatever I want but left me to figure out how to go about it and make it happen; I think that this mentality has allowed me to figure out my own issues and now I really feel I can solve any problem thrown at me. They gave me the tools but left me to fend for myself and I think being thrown from the ship to see if you sink or swim is pretty important.”
As for her advice to incoming freshman who might find themselves re-examining their choices when it comes to what they’ll be after school?
“Don’t let being intimidated stop you from doing something if it’s what you want,” she says. “You don’t have to know right away what you want to do with the rest of your life, and I think it’s kind of ridiculous our education system suggests you do. Explore your options your first year, it’ll ensure that you’ll eventually end up in a major you actually want to be in. If you come in with an “always say yes” attitude you’ll figure out a lot about yourself and make the most of your time in college.” Great, timely advice for those about to embark on their academic career.
For her fearless pursuit of a professional life that’s fulfilling and forwards the betterment of our world, we think Elaina Plinke is one Cool Girl!