Samantha Schwartz 2018

Samantha Schwartz '13, '18
  • Senior Mechanical Engineer | Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc.

  • B.A., Business | Sweet Briar College, 2013
  • B.S., Engineering | Sweet Briar College, 2018

Samantha Schwartz graduated from Sweet Briar with a business degree but couldn’t stop thinking about the engineering courses she also took. So three years after graduation, she came back to campus to earn a degree in engineering. Since then, Sam has worked on hydraulic tubing, fuel systems, and windshields for the V-22 Osprey, supervised repairs for propulsion systems at a commercial airline, and is starting a new job dealing with component for nuclear aircraft carriers.

Samantha Schwartz graduated from Sweet Briar with a business degree in 2013 but couldn’t stop thinking about the engineering courses she also took. So three years after graduation, she came back to campus to earn a degree in engineering.

Since then, Sam has worked on hydraulic tubing, fuel systems, and windshields for the V-22 Osprey, supervised repairs for propulsion systems at a commercial airline, and is starting a new job dealing with component for nuclear aircraft carriers.

She credits her time at Sweet Briar for giving her the broad, hands-on experience that has allowed her to succeed as a mechanical engineer. “As engineers, a lot of times, we’re sitting at a desk, we’re designing things, and somebody else actually does the work. At Sweet Briar, we got to do the work, too,” says Sam, who finished her engineering degree in 2018. “From that aspect, it helped me gain a better perspective of what everyone else is doing once I hand them the instructions.”

As a business management major, Sam originally signed up for an engineering course to complete her science requirement. She found the coursework fascinating and took enough classes to earn a minor. After graduation, she worked doing “outdoorsy” stuff at the beach during the summer and teaching skiing and snowboarding during the winter. She realized she didn’t want to go to work at a bank or a traditional business job.

So Sam contacted Sweet Briar about coming back to finish the 20 credits she needed for a engineering degree. She did a full semester of courses and then earned credit for her work at BWXT, a Lynchburg company that manufactures nuclear reactors.

Her first job after earning her engineering degree was at the Naval Air Systems Command or NAVAIR at its Cherry Point, North Carolina, fleet readiness center. There, she focused on the Osprey, the unique aircraft that lifts off like a helicopter and then flies away like an airplane. “You just have to try not to stop in the middle of the road and watch them,” Sam recalls.

Her next job took her to Atlanta, where she worked for Delta Airlines to deal with engineering problems in plane propulsion systems. Sam recently returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh to work for Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc., where she’ll be in an engineering unit supporting heavy equipment needed for Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carriers.

Sam finds that mechanical engineering is still a male-dominated profession: At Delta, she was part of two teams, with only one other woman on each team and no female supervisors. “I was still one of the highest-producing engineers,” she says. She attributes that to the strong base of knowledge and understanding she gained at Sweet Briar’s women-only program.

“You go in there and gain confidence in a controlled setting and come out ready to go,” she says.