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UC engineering student receives prestigious scholarship from Toyota and PUSH Excel

Quoran Knights (mechanical engineering technology ’22) recently impressed one of the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) most prominent industry partners, Toyota North America. This summer, he received the prestigious Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship, a three-year scholarship funded by Toyota and PUSH Excel that awards up to $25,000 annually. Knights is only one of 10 students nationally to receive this year’s award.

“This is an opportunity I never saw coming,” says Knights. “I’m still trying to take it all in. It makes me excited for the future.”

The award specifically recognizes outstanding business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who have shown leadership in community service, a commitment to diversity and inclusion and an interest in the automotive field.

Knights, originally from Columbus, Ohio, has known he has wanted to study engineering since he was in middle school, when he participated in a local science and engineering camp. At the camp, he discovered his passion for hands-on work through various activities, including a roller coaster design-build project.

“My group and I took the project and ran with it,” says Knights. “It was one of those moments that opened my eyes – I could honestly see me doing something like this as a career. I liked working with my hands, so mechanical engineering technology made the most sense, and the University of Cincinnati had exactly what I was looking for in a college degree.”

On campus, Knights is involved in several extracurricular organizations, including UC’s chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), of which he will serve as vice president this upcoming year. Last year, Knights performed many service projects through the organization, interacting with the community and engaging with younger students about potential career options in the engineering field.

He calls his commitment to community service one of his pillars: “I enjoy giving back to the community and to people who are in a position that I was in. Many times you hear people talk about a degree, but they don’t show you what it’s really about. I like showing kids what can happen when you work toward what you want.”

Another pillar for Knights is his dedication to diversity and inclusion, within both academia and the field of engineering as a whole. He is a student worker within the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s (CEAS) Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement and believes diversity and inclusion can lead to innovation within engineering.

“If you have everybody in the company or on a project that thinks, looks and acts the same, you won’t get a different outcome,” says Knights. “When you have different mindsets, you get different ideas, which helps make a project better.”

Knights will complete his first cooperative education (co-op) rotation with Altec Industries in Elizabethtown, Kentucky in the spring of 2019. He will then start his co-op rotations with Toyota in the summer. Says Knights, “I’m looking forward to making changes in technology and seeing those changes implemented.” The Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship, along with Knights’ passion for and commitment to academic excellence, community engagement and diversity, will allow Knights to make these meaningful changes possible.