HONORS OUT IN THE WORLD
with Joey Wilson
Growing up in Altamonte Springs, right outside of Orlando with his mother and grandmother, Joey Wilson had always had a good eye for computers, numbers, research and natural sciences. After finishing high school with an engineering track, Wilson made it to the University of Florida and graduated from electrical engineering with a minor in physics in 2007.
Could you tell us about your involvements within the Honors Program and UF?
“I approached my time at UF by trying to answer the question, ‘How do I use my engineering skills for good?’ I was a member of UF’s Honors Program and Student Honors Organization, became president of Honors Ambassadors and a Co-Director of the Writing on the Wall Project. The UF Honors Program helped make my experience incredibly positive.”
What happened after UF? What are you currently doing?
“I wanted to continue that philosophy of ‘using my engineering for good’ and I became a high school science teacher in the Phoenix area through Teach For America. The experience with TFA and my students pushed me to refine my philosophy even further – through STEM education. While teaching, I received my Master’s in secondary science education from Arizona State University. After teaching incredible students in Buckeye, Arizona, I ultimately decided to return to engineering and received my PhD in bioengineering in the UC Berkeley. After working on staff at Teach For America for the past three and a half years, I just recently moved over to be the STEM Program Manager for Tata Consultancy Services, one of the world’s largest IT consulting firms. In this role, I am responsible for managing Tata’s STEM and computer science educational outreach programs in more than 100 cities across North America.”
What was role of the Honors Program and University of Florida in your life goals and future in general? “The Honors Program showed me that my degree
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Joey with head of NASA Charles Bolden, the first African American head of the agency, after he opened up the Teach For America 25th Anniversary STEM track in Washington DC.
didn’t have to dictate my career. I still feel connected to UF and the Honors Program as an alumnus, and to this day I consider myself a ‘Gator.’ UF has helped me come into my own skin and accept myself. The Honors Program gave me a community and family that were accepting, which was especially important as I was coming out of the closet as a gay man around that time. As an engineer, I rarely talked about this aspect of my life with others because the focus was always on the work in my classes. However, I realize now that I must use my position and power to ensure that others – especially those who identify as LGBTQ – feel comfortable being themselves. The Honors Program taught me about the power of visibility.
How do you spend your free time?
“I live with my husband in San Francisco, California. In my free time, which I’m still trying to figure out where it is, I love to catch up with friends, support local non-profits by sitting on their boards, make some mean handcrafted cocktails and pretend that I am a foodie. My husband and I got married in May of 2015, where we have the most fabulous wedding in the Berkeley Hills at the Lawrence Hall of Science with the theme: #gaysciencewedding. Beyond that, I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of work-life balance and am open to thoughts and suggestions about how to make that better.”
If you could offer one piece of advice to students in the Honors Program, what would it be?
“Focus on impact and figuring out what drives you. This can only happen if you show up and take chances to figure out what you like and what you don’t like (and ultimately realize it’s ok for those things to change over time). Test things out and push yourself to experience as much as you can at the University of Florida, on campus and off campus. Your schooling, career, and life will never be a straight line, so strive to make the biggest impact you can.”
Written by Sabrina Rubis Photograph by Kelsey Bona Designed by Madison Hindo