Kari Payton

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 a major in engineering, which is an applied science, would be a great fit. And even though there are not many female role models in the engineering profession, she found a perfect one at UALR.

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

“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 after a full day of academic work, Payton enjoys UALR’s intramural sports–another great fit.

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