Natalie Villegas ’12 is no stranger to the benefits of an MSOE education and is at the center of guiding MSOE students to grow as experiential learners. After experience in the industry, the architectural engineering graduate sought a change in career to education. Her experiences as an MSOE student and time as an educator led her back to MSOE.

“I loved being in an educational setting,” said Villegas. “I taught high school science and Project Lead The Way courses for three years before joining MSOE. My role as an educator ignited a passion in me for STEM education.”

Villegas was recently appointed director of the CREATE (Community-focused Real-world Engagement in Academics through Experiential-Learning) Institute. She has been with the CREATE Institute at MSOE since 2019. As she takes the helm, she is looking forward to continuing the work to provide students with hands-on learning experiences that cultivate growth inside the classroom and as they move toward industry.

“I am most excited about finding innovative ways to foster the growth of the MSOE Mindset on campus. I also look forward to working with faculty, students and external partners to expand existing partnerships that connect real-world projects to courses at MSOE.”

As the academic year is just around the corner, Villegas is excited to welcome students back to campus and once again begin programming, involving students in hands-on learning activities. One of them being focused programming within the Cove, an extension of CREATE. The Cove is a maker space where students attend workshops, collaborate with their peers, network with guest speakers or come in on their own time to utilize the space.

“We create a culture that inspires our students to develop both the mindset and skillset they need to solve the complex challenges of today and tomorrow by providing transformative student learning experiences that connect academic, community and industry needs.”

Some examples include experiences like the 2020 desk drive, which Villegas said is one of her fondest memories while she has been at MSOE. Students in the CREATE Student Fellows program worked with Villegas and Digital Bridge to organize a drive to make and donate 100 desks and 100 desktop computers for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public School students.

“Seeing MSOE students, faculty, staff and alumni step up to meet the Milwaukee community in our collective time of need was amazing.”

Outside of her work at MSOE, Villegas serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Saint Joan Antida High School and is on the Education Committee. She also enjoys playing soccer, volleyball and spending time with her family.

Villegas encourages MSOE alumni who are interested to get involved with the CREATE Institute.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to connect with alumni! There are three ways for alumni to get involved with the CREATE Institute: (one) submit a project on the EduSourced portal and become a client, (two) become a project mentor and (three) be a guest speaker.”

If you would like more information on how to connect with the CREATE Institute, email create@mwmf.net.