Elena Djudaric has been making the most out of her Embry-Riddle experience with campus involvement. (Photo: Elena Djudaric) Elena Djudaric has been making the most out of her Embry-Riddle experience with campus involvement. (Photo: Elena Djudaric)
Elena Djudaric has been making the most out of her Embry‑Riddle experience with campus involvement. (Photo: Elena Djudaric)

Aerospace Engineering Student Finds Success Through Support

Story by Alison Whitney
Alison Whitney

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Elena Djudaric is a first-generation college student studying Aerospace Engineering on the Astronautics track, while being active in several clubs.

Elena Djudaric (’23) is studying Aerospace Engineering on the Astronautics track with a minor in Human Factors. The passionate student is active in several groups on campus, serving as a drummer for the Pep Band, Professional Engagement Chair for the Society of Women Engineers and President of the First-Generation Students Association.

Discovering Embry‑Riddle

As an Orlando, Florida, native, Elena Djudaric grew up watching rocket launches just a short distance away on the Space Coast. She and her family happened upon Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University while searching for colleges near her hometown. She knew she wanted to study Aerospace Engineering, so it was a bonus to have a university with a highly ranked aerospace program only a short drive away. She was also drawn in by the small class sizes and opportunities available to her at the university.

“I admired a smaller classroom size as I felt that I would make better connections with the professors and students around me,” she said. “As first gen and an only child, there was a lot to learn early on about the education system and how I could have equal opportunity to achieve higher education.”

While she was deciding which college she wanted to attend, Djudaric was contacted by the Embry‑Riddle Discover Scholars Program for first-generation college students. This program runs for three days before orientation to ease students into the Daytona Beach Campus by participating in activities and workshops, plus meeting with an upper-class peer mentor. After going through the program as a freshman, she became a peer mentor to incoming students and later became a team lead, organizing the events, workshops and trips.

“Little did I know that my experience in this program would give me leadership opportunities and confidence in networking each academic year,” she said. “It makes me very proud to see where each year’s group of students shine throughout campus and in their own individual involvement.”

Campus Involvement

During the school year, the First-Generation Students Association supports these same students with aid and resources. Djudaric is currently the president of the student-run organization.

She is also part of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), where she serves as the Professional Engagement Chair. She says that one of her favorite parts of SWE is the annual National Conference.

“Many of our members, including myself, have received internship or full-time offers from huge companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman,” she added.

In summer 2023, she will be interning in Denver, Colorado, with Lockheed Martin Space as a quality engineer—an internship she secured at the last SWE conference. She’s hoping to turn this summer internship into a full-time position with the company after she graduates in December.

Djudaric is passionate not only about engineering, but also about music. She has played the cello, guitar and several percussion instruments. Currently, she plays the bass drums with the Pep Band at basketball and volleyball games and other events.

“I’m thankful to the Embry‑Riddle Pep Band for providing a community of like-minded peers who also support each other and their love for music,” she said.

The Importance of Support

Djudaric’s support system has been a massive help in getting her where she is now at Embry‑Riddle. From the Discover Scholars Program leaders to her fellow students within her organizations, she is proud of what they have helped her accomplish.

“My family is what inspires me every day to be my best self. They have worked tirelessly to invest in my future, and I know I've made them very proud. While there is a tremendous amount of pressure for first-gen students like me, I cannot express enough about how continuous support can go a long way,” she said.

Her advice to those who follow her?

She said, “Say yes to opportunities, as you never know where they may lead you. Take the time to reflect on how far you have already come. I hope that some will remember my story and go out and achieve dreams of their own."

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