Future Leaders: First Class Cadet Erin Wright

Leading up to the 2018 Commencement, Compass will be featuring several outstanding cadets in the Future Leaders series.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin

U.S. Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Erin Wright. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Erin Wright. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be a success.” -Albert Schweitzer

Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Erin Wright is doing all she can to make a difference at the Academy, in the Coast Guard and in the world.

This summer as the newly commissioned ensigns report to their assignments across the service, Wright will be boarding a flight to the United Kingdom to continue her education.

A mechanical engineering major, Wright has been awarded a 2018-2019 Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in Energy Engineering at Newcastle University in Newcastle, United Kingdom.

“I am very excited to have this opportunity,” said Wright. “It is an honor to receive the scholarship and to represent the Coast Guard in a foreign academic atmosphere.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges.

Sen. J. William Fulbright started the scholarship in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations. It is hoped that award recipients will be the future leaders and support the special relationship between the U.S. and United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom-U.S. Fulbright Commission selects scholars through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards, they look not only for academic excellence but also for a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning. Only a select proportion of paper applications make it to the interview stage, which is conducted by a panel of experts, Fulbright alumni and Fulbright Commission representatives.

“There are many prestigious scholarships available,” said Wright. “The Fulbright is one of the best and will help me achieve success in the Coast Guard.”

Wright will be conducting her research at the Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research at Newcastle University. During her year there, Wright plans to explore the effects of nanoparticle additives to biodiesel as a method for decreasing emission levels and increasing engine efficiency. Her research on reducing the fuel and pollutants from the combustion process in diesel engines is applicable to the maritime industry and the U.S. Coast Guard.

First Class Cadet Erin Wright poses for a photo with Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. James Rendon, Dean of Academics Kurt Colella, and Dr. Alina M. Zapalska, during a ceremony recognizing Wright for being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 12, 2018. Wright intends to pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in Energy Engineering at Newcastle University, Newcastle, U.K. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

First Class Cadet Erin Wright poses for a photo with Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. James Rendon, Dean of Academics Kurt Colella, and Dr. Alina M. Zapalska, during a ceremony recognizing Wright for being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 12, 2018. Wright intends to pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in Energy Engineering at Newcastle University, Newcastle, U.K. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Wright didn’t just wake up one day and apply for the scholarship; it has taken years of hard work and dedication to reach this goal.

An Alpena, Michigan, native, Wright was homeschooled with her five other siblings by their mother.

“I love being from a big family,” said Wright. “My mother is an amazing teacher.”

Of her siblings, Wright has one brother in the U.S. Air Force, twin brothers in seminary school and a younger sister who is on her way to becoming a doctor.

After finishing her high school training at the age of 15, Wright began her college career at a local community college where she received an associates degree in under two years.

“I was unsure what I wanted to do next,” said Wright. “I had wanted to be a veterinary physician, but felt a calling toward something more.”

Wright came across a brochure for the Coast Guard Academy on her brother’s desk. After a bit of research and talking to her parents she applied.

“I didn’t think I would get in,” said Wright. “I was so excited when I received the call from an admissions officer congratulating me on my acceptance into the Academy.”

As a freshman at the Coast Guard Academy, Wright stood out academically and was chosen to be part of the Academy’s Honors Program. The program cultivates academic excellence across all majors, encourages and rewards scholarly achievement. It offers core classes and advanced courses for freshman and sophomore cadets, while junior and senior cadets are selected to compete for scholarships and internships.

Out of a class of nearly 240, she was one of 28 cadets to be inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society for First-Year Students.

To be in the Coast Guard Academy Chapter of The Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society cadets must have obtained a 3.5 GPA or better and be in the top 20% of their class during their freshman year.

“Wright has been consistently enthusiastic about her academic career,” said Cmdr. Michael Plumley, a professor in the Academy’s Mechanical Engineering Department. “Her great attitude toward hard work and dedication are what makes her successful.”

The purpose of ALD is to encourage an interest in scholarship from the first day of school to graduation. Additionally, ALD strives to encourage the appreciation for earnest study to serve as a creative working force, to be an inspiration for four years of university life, to recognize and honor superior intellectual accomplishment, and to encourage the desire for a search ever continuous for wisdom and understanding.

Alpha Lambda Delta has continued to celebrate academic excellence among first-year students and has grown to over 275 chapters and has initiated over one million students.

Also in her first year at the Academy, Wright joined the Offshore Sailing Team, which allowed her to develop sailing skills, and strengthened her admiration for the power of the ocean.

During her time at the Academy, Wright has worked on several research projects. In a helicon plasma experiment project, Wright developed a remote control system that allowed researchers to maintain a safe research environment.

As a junior, she worked on a hybrid performance project supervised by the U.S. Department of Energy where she analyzed how a fuel cell and a gas turbine operating in a symbiotic relationship can increase the energy efficiency of a power generation system.

First Class Cadet Erin Wright, and other members of her capstone project group pose for a photo in their workroom in McAllister Hall at the Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Conn., April 2, 2018. Their project is titled “Design, Build, and Test of a Low Energy Demand Water Maker for Small Vessels and Disaster Relief.” U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Foguth.

First Class Cadet Erin Wright, and other members of her capstone project group pose for a photo in their workroom in McAllister Hall at the Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Conn., April 2, 2018. Their project is titled “Design, Build, and Test of a Low Energy Demand Water Maker for Small Vessels and Disaster Relief.” U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Foguth.

During the summer of 2017, she contributed to research in the Brayton Cycle Laboratory at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she helped develop a system that converted solar power to electrical energy using a Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle.

“This was a great learning experience,” said Wright. “I want to be able to make the Coast Guard better by learning how to modify existing technology we already use in a budget-friendly manner.”

Her senior project at the Academy provides a base knowledge of instrumentation controls and mechanical fluid system design, which was required to complete her Fulbright project. The coursework and research during her undergraduate program at the Academy has delivered a foundation in research methodology, experimental testing, and communication.

“Wright believes that engineers should continuously develop green energy technologies in order to reduce environmental pollution, address climate change and inspires others to do the same,” said Dr. Alina M. Zapalska, the director of the Academy’s Honors Program.

“As an engineer in the Coast Guard, she plans to contribute to the development and implementation of those technologies within the maritime industry. As a Fulbright scholar to the United Kingdom, she will join the Engineers Without Borders organization within the Newcastle community to become a mentor to young students and teach them sustainable engineering principles. Through hands-on workshops, her students will construct basic models of green energy technologies. During field-trips they will explore the causes of environmental pollution and climate change.”

As this will be her first visit to Europe, Wright wants to explore the culture, history, and architecture throughout the United Kingdom and neighboring countries.

“My family is already making plans to visit me,” said Wright. “One of our first trips will be to the Vatican in Rome.”

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