From Physical Therapy to Engineering – A Student Story

From Physical Therapy to Engineering – A Student Story

Andrea Byerly
Friday, March 24, 2023 12:00 AM
Academics, All, Press Releases, Students


CLEVELAND, TN - Engineering Club President, Kylie Burgess, came to Cleveland State with an associate degree in pre-physical therapy, but she didn’t want to be a physical therapist. It wasn’t until a co-worker encouraged her to take classes at Cleveland State that she realized engineering was her field.

Growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Burgess graduated from a private boarding high school in Georgia. She spent four years at a private college studying journalism and then physical therapy. She studied abroad for a year in Argentina becoming fluent in Spanish and even worked as a summer camp counselor in Alaska.

After completing 80 hours of physical therapy observations, Burgess knew that she didn’t have the passion for it. In August 2021, she withdrew from the physical therapy graduate program two weeks before it began. That summer she worked in the Cleveland YMCA aquatic program. She said, “When there were problems with the chemical feeder systems for the pools, I wanted to figure out what was wrong with them. I had a lot of fun trying to see if it was mechanical failure or human machine interaction failure, analyzing things and figuring out how we could improve them. We had lots of spare parts so I built machines to use as we waited for new ones to arrive.”

As Burgess thought about her career path, a co-worker encouraged her to take a computer aided design (CAD) class at Cleveland State. In January 2022, Burgess enrolled in CAD and pre-calculus classes. She said, “I really enjoyed those classes, especially the math lab for practicing concepts.” 

She joined the engineering club and thought about being a math major. As she talked to other students and the club sponsor, Burgess realized that engineering was a good fit for her. In fall 2022, she enrolled as a full-time engineering major.

Burgess said, “I wish I had started out at Cleveland State. I felt lost when I started college. There weren’t any faculty that took an interest in me that I could talk to at my first college. With the smaller class sizes, I have a much closer relationship with my teachers here. There are so many resources for students at Cleveland State.”

Darrell Oakley, associate professor and engineering club sponsor, said, “Kylie is a very motivated person and has been a great leader for the engineering club. She is excellent at making others feel a connection to the group and creating an inviting atmosphere. Kylie has accomplished all of this while balancing a challenging electrical engineering course schedule.”

Burgess plans to graduate in May 2024 and transfer to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in electrical engineering. She wants to work in automation, robotics and computers. Her ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. in quantum physics. 


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