Meet Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Hometown: Folsom,California

Majors: General Engineering and Mechanical Engineering

My high school physics teacher, Eric Wright, was a big reason I decided to pursue a degree in applied sciences. Eric made math and science fun and tangible with what he called, with a wry smile, “arts and crafts.” It was one thing to calculate the velocity and distance of a projectile or the buoyant force of a raft, but quite another to give us the tools to build and launch our own rockets and race our own canoes on the local lake. I used to think that engineering was dull, filled with boring, long mathematics — solve for x, balance the equation, etc. — but Eric showed us how fun and applicable it could be. I still stay in touch with him, and have had opportunities to tell his students about my fun engineering experiences and opportunities in college and in industry.

After sitting in on some upper-division engineering courses at SPU during a prospective-student week, though, I started to question my desire to study engineering. Then, one day after class, Dr. Adam Arabian, then chair of Mechanical Engineering, asked me about my interests and my concerns about studying engineering. He reassured me that engineering was more than calculus and differential equations. He gave me his cell number and told me to call or text him if I ever had doubts or questions about engineering. I was blown away by this generous gesture and would soon discover that all my SPU professors would have this sort of approachability and willingness to engage with students on a personal level.

Today I’m living my childhood dream of working in the automotive industry and contributing to the design and manufacturing of semitrucks at Kenworth. I’ve been working as a design engineer in the transmission-powertrain group, where I support current product production at four plants across North America, and help design, integrate, validate, and lead programs for new content and future products. In my short time with the company, I’ve had some incredible opportunities to get hands on with the trucks and travel to meet with suppliers and customers.

Engineering is no walk in the park; it takes hard work, discipline, and long nights of studying, but the faculty at SPU gave me the tools, resources, and outlets to succeed in the classroom and beyond graduation. I also really enjoyed the junior/senior design projects. Getting to design and craft a “product” with a target customer in my mind was not only fun but super applicable to the work that I do today, and ties in all the pieces of my previous engineering coursework.

But the best experience from my time in engineering at SPU was through SAE Baja. Getting to work alongside and eventually lead multidisciplinary engineering students to design, build, and race a baja car was some serious fun. The SAE programs are a great way to get your hands dirty (in the best way possible) and take your technical skills and knowledge to the next level.