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Outstanding Graduate explores her passion for French, engineering

Graduating student holds up diploma in front of Christmas tree

Vianny Ruiz Vargas (right) is the Outstanding Graduate for the School of International Letters and Cultures.

December 14, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Vianny Ruiz Vargas, a double major in mechanical engineering and French, is this fall's Outstanding Graduate for the School of International Letters and Cultures.

Vargas always knew she wanted to major in mechanical engineering. Growing up, she had a natural tendency to fix things around the house so she knew it would be a good fit. She was also inspired by her father, who is a mechanical engineer. 

ASU appealed to Vargas, who wanted to explore outside of her home state of Texas. At the time, Arizona seemed like the best option and the university's highly ranked engineering program stood out when compared to other universities. 

Vargas was also interested in studying French, but she knew it would be a challenge to major in both French and mechanical engineering. She went ahead and took a couple of French classes to see if it would be manageable for her. Vargas decided during her sophomore year to officially make French her second major. She had also taken French classes in high school so she already had a strong foundation of the language and could speak it pretty well.

“I already had most of the grammar down, so I was able to skip a couple classes, which helped in the long run,” Vargas said.

As part of an internship, Vargas even had the opportunity to teach French to middle schoolers. Trying to hold the attending span of young children and find activities that excited them was a new challenge for her. She had to restructure her lessons to be more hands-on and engaging. 

“In the end, the semester was successful and I went back the next semester to teach again,” Vargas said.

Throughout her time at ASU, Vargas learned the value of pushing through difficult classes and not giving up. Even when she felt burnt out from taking on more credits than she could handle one semester, it didn’t stop her from continuing to work hard to complete both degrees. She is grateful for the engineering students she met along the way, through SHIP, which stands for Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers, and in her classes. Together, they built a strong community that helped and supported one another.

“It’s pretty cool because you get to meet other Latin engineers and Hispanic engineers and you build a community with them,” Vargas said.

Vargas is currently applying to different engineering positions, but she has goals of attending grad school in a couple of years and possibly pursuing a PhD. So far she has received a job offer that might allow her to use her French language skills, which she finds really exciting. 

“The company is called SLB and originally they were founded in France, so they still have some plants and factories in France. I might get the opportunity one day to maybe go to France and speak with other French engineers and maybe even work there for a little while. That would be really amazing,” Vargas said.

She shared more about her undergraduate experience at ASU.

Question: What is the biggest lesson you learned in college?

Answer: For context, I was in college for four-and-a-half years. It wasn’t four years because it was a little too much for me to try and do two majors at the same time. One semester I tried to do too much. I think I took more than 19 credits. That was a mistake because I had told myself I wasn’t going to do that and that was the reason I extended my time. I ended up failing a class because I tried to do too much. I had to retake it again and I did really well compared to how I had done before. Sometimes people can do a lot more than they think they can do, but don’t try to push it too much because then things like that are going to happen. 

Q: What advice would you give freshmen who are starting their first year at ASU?

A: I know that a lot of freshmen are sometimes unsure about what to do. If they want to do something, they should just do it. If it doesn’t work out in the end, they can just change. For example, they can change majors. I think it's good to just go ahead and try it because they never know what door may open for them.

Q: Can you tell me about a professor that inspired you or impacted you in some way?

A: There was a professor that I took for one of my electives. The class was called Intro to Astrobiology and it was a very discussion based class where we had a prompt to discuss each day. We would discuss subjects about the origin of the universe which nobody really knows about. Dr. (Sara) Walker prompted us to continue with these discussions even though we don’t really know. Just by keeping those discussions alive, you’re able to possibly, in the future, take those discussions and try to maybe find those answers. She’s also motivational because she’s a woman and she has a PhD.

Q: If you were given $40 million what would you do with that money?

A: First of all, I think maybe if I had any debt, I would pay that off. Ever since I was little I told my grandma that when I graduate, I get a job and I have more money, I would buy a house for her so we can all live together. And then I would buy more gifts for my family. I would potentially invest it in the S&P 500 and get more money from it. Then maybe I could use it for other things like charities and nonprofits. 

Q: What is your fondest memory from college?

A: All of the friends that I met throughout the years in my engineering classes. We helped each other, just trying to survive some of those hard classes that we took. The community that we built, especially in SHIP. I got to meet a lot of new people and friends that I will hopefully stay connected with now that I’m finished with college.

Q: What was your proudest moment in your college career?

A: I think it was sophomore year. I was taking this class called Dynamics. It’s like Physics on steroids and I wasn’t sure if I passed the class. I remember I took the final and I was just waiting for those grades to be posted. I kept checking and I kept refreshing, refreshing and refreshing. I even went so far as to email my professor and ask him. I was like “please let me know if I passed.” I could’ve failed or passed. I remember he got back to me and told me, “you passed, kiddo” and I was so excited. I didn’t cry, but I was so glad I passed that class because I didn’t know what I would’ve done if I had to retake that class. 

Q: What is your favorite spot on campus?

A: The Secret Garden. It’s so pretty and has so many plants. I really like the green. It’s something that I really enjoy in life since I come from the desert. I really like when there’s a lot of green around me so I think that place is really pretty.

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