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Maya Clinton is the first Black woman to graduate from her program, but not the last

When Maya Clinton started at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in 2017, she already knew she would transfer to NC State University.

A Durham native, Clinton had strong family ties to NCCU, commonly referred to as Central. When her mother came across a dual degree partnership between Central and NC State during her own time at NCCU, she immediately approached Clinton about it.

“I’ve always wanted to do engineering,” Clinton said. “That was where I was looking at first, but in high school I really fell in love with physics and wanted to find a way to do that more. So as my mom was graduating Central, she found out about this program and said, ‘Hey, you’re very interested in physics. This program will let you do both.’”

Clinton graduated from NC State in May 2023 with a dual degree from both universities in physics and mechanical engineering. During her time at NC State, she was an engineering ambassador and did undergraduate research.

Clinton’s twin sister went to NCCU and graduated with a history degree in 2020. She came to NC State later for a dual master’s in public history and library science and just graduated with her public history degree.

“My twin sister keeps me in line and keeps my head on straight,” said Clinton. “And the community I’ve had, even going back to professors who believed in me and pushed me forward.”

Though Clinton knows that she, too, wants to come back to NC State to get a master’s degree in electrical engineering, she’s taking a gap year first.

”I’ve had a couple things concerning my health, so I’m taking some time to get myself together and focus on those things,” she said. “Over the summer I went back to Central to help out with a program that I participated in when I first came called Research, Development and Innovation.”

Since then, she has started as a Research and Development Engineer in the Brain Stimulation and Engineering Lab at Duke University in the School of Medicine.

She is the first person to graduate from the program with that set of degrees as well as the first Black woman to complete the program. There are several Black students in the program who will graduate in the coming years, but Clinton spoke about how it felt to be the only one in her year.

“I’ve definitely had some imposter syndrome,” she said. “But I know I’m smart. I know I can do this type of work. Whenever I get discouraged, I look back on all the successes that I have had and remind myself that I’ve done so much.”

This post was originally published in College of Engineering News.