Victoria Tagarelli, who will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, will remain in the Binghamton region after graduation. She will join the Engineering Leadership Development Program at Lockheed Martin in Owego.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2013 profile: Victoria TagarelliTweet
Each spring semester, students and faculty from the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science gather in the Lecture Hall and hold a talent show.
The talent on display ranges from singing to break-dancing to ukulele playing, says Victoria Tagarelli, who will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and address her classmates at Commencement.
“Usually a professor will give a lecture that they think is ‘talent,’” she says with a laugh. “But it’s a good time.”
At the most recent talent show, Tagarelli was accompanied on guitar by Mark Fowler, professor of electrical and computer engineering, when she sang “Home” by Michael Bublé.
It was an appropriate vocal from the 21-year-old from Hawthorne, N.Y., as Binghamton University has been her home since transferring from Stony Brook during her freshman year. Tagarelli will remain in the Binghamton area after graduation, when she begins a job at Lockheed Martin in Owego.
“I would tell people this: ‘Your college becomes your second home,’” she says. “This class saw Binghamton go through the (2012) flood. It was a big moment when we turned around and said, ‘This is our community.’ It hit us hard. And when Sandy hit (New York City and Long Island), this community donated so much back to the students. It’s a second home – and a second family.”
For Tagarelli, that family feeling extends to Watson, where students learn from one another and rely on one another.
“There’s an immediate comfort I feel when someone tells me they are an engineer,” she says. “The students work hard and don’t take things for granted. They love to learn and love to be challenged. That’s what makes the field so interesting. When I take a class, it’s new and challenging. I’m not going to find the answer written in a textbook. There isn’t a yes-no answer. It’s hands-on.”
There is a perception, though, that some Watson students spend all of their time sitting and working at a computer, Tagarelli says. Not true.
“We can actually have a social conversation!” she says with a laugh. “We really do enjoy interacting and having a good time.”
Working as a Watson peer advisor gives Tagarelli the chance to assist other students.
“You must be insanely smart if you aren’t struggling a bit,” she says. “Everyone goes through a phase in which they struggle. … I enjoy helping people and making someone’s day a little easier.”
Sharon Santobuono, associate director of Watson Advising, says that Tagarelli has been an “invaluable asset” to the office.
“Victoria is always happy and her smile contagious,” Santobuono says. “Victoria was also an undergraduate course assistant for one of the freshman classes − she was a wonderful role model and mentor to other female students. She is always reliable, insightful and conscientious.”
Tagarelli also made the days of prospective students a little easier, as she served as a campus tour guide for the past two years.
“A tour is an opportunity to tell people how much you love the school,” says Tagarelli, who adds that it was particularly exciting to run into President Harvey Stenger once on a tour and have him speak to students and parents.
Keys to a memorable tour include smiling a lot and knowing how to poke fun at yourself, she says.
“You can explain office hours – and they may not find it entertaining,” she says. “But they may find it entertaining to know that I once had a breakdown and started crying in front of my professor. They’ll remember that story and remember that there are professors who will be there for you.”
Besides her peer-advising and tour-guide positions, Tagarelli serves as a community assistant at University Plaza and as treasurer of the Orchesis Dance Explosion.
“I come from a family that likes to sing and dance – whether we are good at it or not!” she says.
Tagarelli, who has conducted security-engineering research at programs at the University of Maryland and the University of Connecticut, will take her engineering talents to Lockheed Martin. She will be part of the Owego facility’s Engineering Leadership Development Program, which features rotations in areas such as circuit, design and systems engineering. The program also enables Tagarelli to pursue a master’s degree at Cornell University after a year.
“Lockheed Martin is a great company,” she says. “Doing security engineering gave me a patriotic feeling. At Lockheed Martin, I’ll get to do work that benefits the country and that the Defense Department uses. You can save lives with that. What Lockheed Martin stands for is great.”