Last fall, when Eliana Ondrejko stepped out on top of the wind turbine on campus and looked out over Cleveland, she saw the city from a whole new angle.
“Rather than being just a skyline view, it was almost like looking at an angled view of Google Maps, with the 3-D buildings—but in real life,” said Ondrejko, who became a certified wind turbine climber to snag that impressive view.
This was just one of many new perspectives she gained this past year through the Great Lakes Energy Institute ThinkEnergy Fellowship, which immerses students in the energy field through discussions about policy and the technical aspects of energy, research projects, a summer internship and more.
For Ondrejko, a rising junior majoring in marketing and international studies, the fellowship at first seemed like a departure from her usual studies. But she quickly discovered it largely complemented her education.
As the only student in her cohort of nine whose studies aren’t rooted in engineering and sciences, collaborating with the other fellows has given her experience bridging the gap between the design and marketing of a product.
“There are often communication issues in businesses,” she said. “If you can solve those, I can’t even begin to imagine the product innovations that would come about by connecting engineering and business.”
Ondrejko has connected with people in all facets of the energy field, building her professional network along the way.
At the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Energy Innovation Summit in the spring, for example, the fellows met other students, government scientists, business people and others doing energy-related work.
“It was just so many different people all with the idea of making the world a better place through the lens of energy,” Ondrejko said.
This summer, Ondrejko is blending her own interests in energy and business as an intern with the Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, where she’s conducting a carshare feasibility study for the city and creating a business case.
“This has really opened my eyes to how energy relates to everything around us,” she said.
Get to know Ondrejko better in this week’s five questions.
1. What’s your favorite place in Cleveland?
Right now, it’s Public Square. I go downtown to work with the [mayor’s] Office of Sustainability, so I’ve been to Public Square a fair amount this summer. It’s beautiful in the summer. It’s a really nice green space in the city. So seeing the bustle of downtown—the people, activity and events—in that green space is something that is really cool to me.
2. If you could have any superpower, what would you pick?
Being able to speak any other language I want because then I would be able to communicate with a lot of different people with so many different experiences. I would be able to bridge understanding gaps between languages, especially in relation to idioms and figurative language. If I could understand that implicitly, that would be fantastic.
I take French here and that’s one of the most difficult parts—figuring out the little parts of language that just don’t have a direct translation or don’t make sense in your native language.
3. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think the predominant themes in my younger self’s aspirations were being a princess and maybe a spy alongside that. I liked the mystique of the whole thing.
4. Throughout all of your schooling, what was the most important lesson you ever learned?
The one that’s prevailed overall would be looking at things from different perspectives before you make a decision or have a personal opinion on a matter. One particular class that taught me that was the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme’s history course during my junior and senior years of high school. We actually read things about conflicts from different perspectives, which I hadn’t really gotten in other history classes. It revolutionized how I think about things: You have to look at the different perspectives and figure out things based on your own values.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I really love the people. The first five minutes I was on campus—or after my parents left, at least—I met people on my floor who were spectacular. I did a pre-orientation adventure, and the people there were wonderful. When I say wonderful, I mean they were open, interested in learning about other people and weren’t too caught up in themselves. It’s a fantastic thing for a university to have people who are so open-minded and open to change, open to learning new things. That’s what a university is about.