I am Tri Delta: Paige Kassalen
Trident | June 24, 2016

In this series of articles, we feature several members who make up our amazing sisterhood. They all come from different backgrounds and have different passions and talents, but they all share one commonality: They are Tri Delta.

Paige Kassalen, Virginia Tech — barely a year post-graduation — is on an around-the-world adventure. The newly minted electrical engineer is currently traveling the globe with Solar Impulse, the first solar airplane capable of flying day and night without using a drop of fuel.

As a student at Virginia Tech, Paige was drawn to engineering by the creativity it allowed her.

“I chose to study electrical engineering because I’ve always enjoyed being creative and finding creative solutions to solve problems,” she says. “You always had a million ways you could solve a problem, but you knew instantly if it was correct because a light would turn on or a code would output the right response. Every time you solved a problem, it was the best feeling in the world.”

The hands-on approach of her classes was what she enjoyed most about her coursework. During her time at Virginia Tech, Paige worked on several projects. A favorite was a video game she built using an accelerometer to move buckets to catch balls.

As an engineering student, she also made a point to give back to the Blacksburg, Virginia, community by designing and teaching curriculum on electricity to a fourth-grade science class.

Outside of the engineering labs, Paige also enjoyed her experience as a member of Tri Delta’s Beta Nu Chapter.

She recalls being initially impressed with Tri Delta during recruitment. “Everyone in the chapter was looking to accomplish big things and had done awesome things already — some sisters had gone to Africa to teach children, or studied abroad — I remember thinking this is an awesome group of women, and I just want to be a part of it.”

Paige admits that during her freshman year she was stressed about all the things she wanted to accomplish during her time at Virginia Tech. But after joining Tri Delta, she felt like everything fell into place naturally. “I believe I’m the person I am today as a result of my decision.”

In fact, it was her experience as her chapter’s vice president of public relations that helped Paige land her dream job. Covestro, a chemical company that Paige had interned with in 2014 before becoming a full-time employee in their trainee program, was looking for a representative to be a part of the ground crew for Solar Impulse. Covestro is an official partner of Solar Impulse and supplied lightweight and efficient material to build the plane. Serving as VP/PR provided Paige with the skills necessary to act as a liaison between the two companies.

“An engineering degree and a background in public relations is a unique mix, and it’s amazing how it worked out.”

Paige says the Tri Delta idea of always wearing her letters is so ingrained in her that she thinks about it when she’s representing her company. “It’s awesome to have the ability to represent Covestro and be a part of this historic mission. When we do events at the airplane hangar, I’m representing the company, and it comes more naturally to me than I think it would to other people because of my experiences with Tri Delta.”

As a member of the ground crew, Paige also gets hands-on experience with the plane — she helps maneuver the plane for takeoff and landings. She will either be pulling the plane using slings, assisting in balancing the wings on the handling masts, or following the plane on an electric bicycle. When the plane lands, her job gets even more interesting. The ground crew members become the catching crew — a team of people that line the runway and run to catch and stabilize the plane when it lands.

The team itself is made up of people from across the world and Paige again credits her Tri Delta experience with teaching her how to interact with people from all backgrounds.

“It’s really amazing being on this team — it’s a global team with most of the people coming from Switzerland. It was such an interesting experience joining the team in Hawaii because everyone was speaking French or German. Because of Tri Delta, I had no problem being the only born and raised American on the team and making friends with everyone.”

One thing Paige enjoys about the job is the sense of adventure. “Every day is exciting. We face new challenges and the project depends on weather, so nothing is certain. There’s no way to know weeks in advance when we’re going to leave one city and head to the next or which cities we’ll even go to. For the next six months I’ll be completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t know where I’ll be next, but I know eventually I’ll be in Abu Dhabi where the journey will end and we will make history. That’s what makes this project so exciting and what attracted me to the position.”

Paige credits both her STEM degree and the skills she learned through Tri Delta with providing her with this unique — and somewhat unexpected — opportunity.

“I was expecting to graduate and become an electrical engineer. Here I am a year after graduation working for a chemical company, traveling around the world with a solar powered airplane and doing things I did not even know were possible…You never know what opportunities you might have.”

There are more than 200,000 Tri Deltas around the world who make up our sisterhood. Tri Delta wants to hear from YOU! What makes you unique? Tell us on social media using the hashtag #IamTriDelta.

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