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From K.I.D.S Club to the Commencement stage, Courtney Curtis prepares for the final step of her Georgia Tech journey.  

Many students meticulously plan their Commencement outfits, but Courtney Curtis sewed hers.   

The Douglasville, Georgia, native got her first sewing machine when she was 9, taking inspiration from her seamstress grandmother. Despite sewing through her finger the first time she used the machine, Curtis kept at it.  

"I am not someone who gives up or quits. If you sew through your finger once, that doesn't mean you'll do it again. Everything, whether it's a hobby or starting a new project, comes with a learning curve, and if I start something, I'm going to finish it," she said.   

Around the time she started sewing, Curtis set foot on the Georgia Tech campus for the first time. Attending CEISMC events and K.I.D.S Club events, she remembers how expansive the 400-acre campus felt as a child. Over time, it became familiar as she returned often with her dad, who was earning a master's degree in civil engineering.   

"When we were on campus with him, he would study in front of the same big tree on Tech Green. While he studied, I would do my homework, and that spot became one of my favorite study spots on campus," she said.   

On one of her many weekend trips to campus as a high school student, she attended a biomedical engineering student panel and felt an instant connection to the program.   

"As a high school sophomore, I listened to the panel talk about their experiences, what it meant to be in BME, and everything they do at Georgia Tech, and that was a primary reason why I gravitated toward it. I felt that it fit with who I was as a person, and in hindsight, getting my education here allowed me to pursue my passions," Curtis, a John Lewis Leadership Fellow, said.  

After graduating, she will join Owens & Minor as an R&D product engineer focusing on medical apparel, combining her interests in sewing and helping others. Owens & Minor was the primary sponsor of Curtis' capstone project, in which her team created a more inclusive cleaning coverall.   

"Unfortunately, the hoods currently used in cleaning coveralls don't accommodate the fact that people have heads and that those heads have hair. That was a glaring complaint we heard, especially from women who wear their hair in puffs or may have braids. Our coverall resolves that issue with an inclusive hood that covers your hair, keeps everything nice and sterile while you're working, and eliminates waste," she explained.  

From the Flowers Invention Studio to the Salsa Club, Curtis will miss plenty of aspects of campus life, including one that she knows goes against the norm for most college students.   

"I'm surprisingly going to miss the atmosphere and the vibes around final exams when everybody's super stressed and scrambling, and you see everyone cramming in the Library," she said.  

When she crosses the Commencement stage, Curtis will be thinking of all those who helped her get to this point — her family, the Georgia Tech Society of Black Engineers, the Black Women’s Support Group, the Office of Minority Educational Development, and BME faculty members including James Blumling, Swati Gupta, Melissa Kemp, S. Balakrishna Pai, and Ankur Singh.  

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Courtney Curtis Commencement Photo
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