Every year in the small agricultural town of Walkersville, Maryland, the high school’s graduating class writes their post-graduation plans next to their name on a wall. Susan Kolbay, who’d lived in Walkersville all her life, took a pen to the wall and filled in “Virginia Tech.”
In 1997, she packed up and headed to a town with a population about nine times the size of her hometown. Armed with a love of science and her dad’s encouragement to explore engineering, she arrived on the campus she’d fallen in love with months before during a tour as a general engineering major.
Now a 2002 mechanical engineering alumna with a concentration in green engineering and a professional engineer’s license in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., Kolbay designs buildings in metro D.C. for a living and gives back to Virginia Tech in her spare time.
She credits Virginia Tech with unlocking career possibilities she never imagined while living in the town where she went to kindergarten with most of the more than 200 classmates she graduated from high school with. It’s why she now gives back philanthropically and with her time to Virginia Tech.
“Education is the path to freedom,” Kolbay said. “I feel like I got out of a small town by going to school and getting educated, and then the world just opened doors for me because I had an education.”