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A female seated in the cockpit of a vehicle in flight with water, land and sky visible through the clear cockpit cover behind and above her head.
Angela Duron participates in High-G and Spaceflight Analog Training as part of the Advanced Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere (PoSSUM) Space Academy in Melbourne, Fla. Duron was one of only 10 students selected internationally to participate in the program, which focuses on aeronomy and astronautics research. | Image: Courtesy of Angela Duron

Long before she joined the Texas A&M Engineering Academy program, senior multidisciplinary engineering technology major Angela Duron ‘24 dreamed of graduating with an engineering degree from Texas A&M University and becoming an engineer at NASA, hoping to assist in space exploration as an astronaut one day.

“Electromechanical systems — such as robotics — were the driving force for me wanting to be an engineer,” Duron said. “I wanted to understand the way these machines worked — from the electrical, mechanical and programming aspects — then be able to apply these fundamentals to space exploration as we head toward the next steps of discovery.”

After a great deal of research, Duron developed a long-term plan to achieve her goals. She began by enrolling in the Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy at Houston Community College-Spring Branch (HCC).

The academy is the first transition program of its kind in the United States. Students are co-enrolled in Texas A&M and one of nine partner community colleges. They take mathematics, science and core curriculum courses through the community college while taking engineering courses from Texas A&M faculty on the community college campus. After one or two years, students transition to Texas A&M to complete their bachelor's degrees. Unlike traditional transfer programs, students are Texas A&M College of Engineering students from day one.

During her time at HCC, Duron stayed close to home, saved money and worked one-on-one with her professors. She built a foundation of understanding in her core classes that remained prevalent throughout the rest of her education.

"Once I found the Engineering Academy, the daydreaming turned into a vision which translated into a plan with large long-term goals but entailed small steps to reach that destination," Duron said. “The academy's staff and advisors provided many resources to encourage me to go above and beyond what I even thought I was capable of.” 

Upon transitioning to Texas A&M, Duron first pursued aerospace engineering. Although she enjoyed the program, she quickly realized it wasn't her desired concentration. Duron’s driving motivation for her education was electromechanical systems, as she was intrigued by electrical and mechanical design. After speaking with professors of practice, Duron realized other engineers could contribute to space exploration.

This realization led Duron to change her major to multidisciplinary engineering technology as a mechatronics engineer.

“Although I was hesitant, this was the best decision I have ever made—learning to follow my heart has been incredibly rewarding,” Duron said. “The perseverance and tenacity that I developed from the academy [program] assisted me in the continuous pursuit of this challenge.”

Duron now uses her work ethic and integrity to facilitate change in the world around her through many different avenues. She is a lead engineer in NASA L'Space Mission Concept Academy, where students work collaboratively to design a mission-related project and receive mission development skills training from NASA scientists and engineers. Duron also graduated from the Advanced PoSSUM Space Academy, where undergraduates participate in hands-on immersive experiences relating to upper-atmospheric science. And she is president of the Engineering Academies ambassadors, vice president of the Society of Mechatronics Engineering Technology student group and a Tejano Tech guest speaker.

“As of fall 2023, the (Engineering Academies) ambassadors are a student organization that will allow more opportunity and engagement,” Duron said. “I'm incredibly grateful to the program, so I want to do the best of my ability to lead with heart, compassion and kindness as the first president. I truly just wanted to give back to future and current students who were interested in the program by giving advice, guidance and the information I gained while going through this process. There are alternate paths to get to the same destination—the academy is surely one of them.

“No Stranger to Failure”

Duron is a first-generation student and a daughter of a single immigrant mother, so she pushes herself to great lengths, embracing her shortcomings and inspiring those around her. Duron said she is no stranger to failure and sees her failures as opportunities to learn. When she feels discouraged, Duron encourages herself to keep going by remembering how far she has come.

“This hasn't been an easy path,” Duron said. “I am grateful for that. This means that hard work and faith have been put into place for a fruitful journey. I remember where I came from, when this seemed impossible, and when advisors and counselors from my high school and past community college, before the academy, said this dream wasn't feasible.”

Duron advises other students who have endured challenges along their educational journey to avoid comparison and not fear failure.

“There is no such thing as perfection,” said Duron. “Progression isn't linear; one success is a mountain of failures. The background you come from does not make you who you are; the decisions you make are what make you who you are. When you are going places others have never gone, you will go on paths that have never been explored. You will do things that have never been done, so don't compare yourself to others. You know yourself more than anyone; do not listen to others when they do not see your value.”

“Students with heart and tenacity”

Overall, Duron credits a great deal of her success to the Engineering Academies. She says they encouraged her to go above and beyond what she thought she was capable of and encourages other students to take advantage of the program.

“They truly care for all of their students and are outputting students with heart and tenacity,” Duron said. “If someone such as myself is capable of doing this, anyone truly can—this is the proof that this (program) works.”