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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Future female engineer inspired by dad, professor, peers

UALR junior Kari Payton enjoyed “working with her hands” in her dad’s construction business growing up in the tiny northeast Louisiana town of Bastrop.

Since Payton also enjoyed math, the 20-year-old figured that engineering, an applied science, would be a great fit for a major. And even though there aren’t many female role models in the engineering profession, she found the perfect one at UALR.

Kari Payton, UALR myfuture@work

“Dr. Nidhal Bouaynaya was the only female professor I had,” said Payton. “She always pushed me in class and even after the semester was over she asked me to do research for her.”

Payton added, “It was a good experience. To see her being a woman and engineering professor, it kind of gave me some hope in looking at my career. Maybe I might want to be a professor some day.”

But, Payton said her peers are also a great source of inspiration.

“South Hall is mostly for math, science, engineering, and technology majors, so it is kind of a community atmosphere,” she said.”We work a lot with each other and getting to know them outside of the classroom has been really helpful.”

Payton, a Donaghey Scholar, said the scholarship program was exactly what she wanted to get out of college — “rigorous academics, teachers who are focused and care about you, and also a community of students who are dedicated and driven.”

She is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers, as well as the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. To relieve stress from a full day of academic work, UALR’s intramural sports are another great fit for Payton.

“If I’m not studying, I try to get out of the dorms and get some exercise … I’m big on activity sports,” she said.

To learn more about the systems engineering program at UALR, go to Department of Systems Engineering.

Interested students may also visit the Department of Construction Management & Civil and Construction Engineering at: