Giving Back While Moving Forward – Gateway Scholar Spotlight

This interview is part of the Gateway Scholar Spotlight Series. WPI Online’s Gateway Scholarship is awarded annually to 5 of our online, part-time graduate students. This series introduces you to the scholarship winners: working professionals who are pursuing their educational goals through WPI Online while juggling career, family, and more.

2019 Gateway Scholarship winner Xiaolin Zhen’s motto is, “Do what you love. Love what you do. Enjoy the ride, and never stop learning.” Zhen, who is enrolled in WPI’s online M.S. in Robotics Engineering, does a lot, including learning about new sewing techniques.

“My first sewing project was the graduation cap and gown I made for my teddy bear back in 2012,” she said, adding that was when she earned her bachelor’s degree at WPI.

In addition to pursuing her M.S., Zhen works full-time as a Member Services Staff at South Cove Community Health Center. She somehow makes time to volunteer, too; since 2017, she has served as an engineering mentor for Westwood High School’s FIRST Robotics Team.

As a team, we develop and test an autonomous competition robot, all within a six-week period,” she explained. She also taught an afternoon Lego Robotics mini course at a local elementary school.  

With a goal of becoming a medical roboticist, Zhen chose to pursue the M.S. at WPI online in part because she truly enjoyed her experience as an undergrad. “Also, WPI’s robotics program is ranked one of the top robotics programs, and the faculty team are the leaders in their fields across the country,” she said, adding that,I have to say that every teacher that I’ve had at WPI had a genuine care for the students. Everyone at WPI is a true believer in what they are doing. They are so passionate and enthusiastic about it, and it makes me catch fire about it, too.

Zhen has always understood the value of education. “Neither of my parents had an opportunity to attend college and faced many struggles in their personal and professional lives because of this. Because of their love and sacrifice over the years, I have been able to devote the time and energy necessary to academic accomplishment even though money has always been tight,” she said. 

Though she has funded the tuition for the M.S. program with savings from her day job, she appreciates the Gateway Scholarship. “It is unusual to have a scholarship available for online students, and I think WPI is very generous for that, and I am very grateful.  


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