5 questions with Ciera McCrary, Navy lieutenant and online engineering master’s program student

Photo of Cierra McCrary in uniform

Editor’s note: In recognition of Veterans Day, we wanted to highlight one of Case Western Reserve’s active-duty service members, Ciera McCrary, who also happens to be an online student—fitting for National Distance Learning Week, Nov. 9-13. Learn more about her in our special Wednesday edition of The Daily‘s 5 questions.

When Case Western Reserve University made the switch to virtual learning in the spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students, faculty and staff had to make rapid adjustments. But Ciera McCrary had uniquely challenging circumstances: The Navy lieutenant and graduate student in the online master’s in biomedical engineering program at Case School of Engineering was aboard a ship at sea. 

McCrary, who is stationed on the USS Howard out of San Diego, was aboard the ship and unable to come ashore for months—all while still trying to continue her online program. On the ship, internet connections can be unstable and there is limited access, but McCrary was grateful for her instructors’ support.

“The professors are extremely helpful in being lenient and working with me on what to do,” McCrary said. “They’re very understanding and help me a lot.”

McCrary earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, following in her older brother’s footsteps by attending the institution. 

“I always knew I wanted to serve. I wanted something bigger and I love to travel, so the Naval Academy seemed like a competitive place that would drive me and push me to get better,” she said.

During her undergraduate experience, McCrary had internships with NASA and MIT. 

As a surface warfare officer in the Navy, McCrary’s experience has largely involved program management and maintenance and also offered her the chance to develop her leadership skills, both in helping others through humanitarian acts and leading those who work under her.

Case Western Reserve’s master’s program offered an opportunity to return to the more technical side of engineering and to study biomedical applications, a field she had been drawn to since first reading about cell-grown organs outside of the human body.

McCrary looks to enter the civilian workforce following her anticipated spring graduation, at which time she hopes to explore the research and development side of engineering.

“The military has given me a great amount of opportunities and I don’t regret it whatsoever, but I think it’s time for me to transition,” McCrary said.

Learn more about McCrary in this week’s five questions.

1. What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was actually Moonwalking with Einstein [by Joshua Foer]—it’s a way of understanding a new form of how to learn properly.

2. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was younger, I always wanted to be an engineer, some sort of scientist. I always wanted to be involved in something with cancer research or deadly diseases, infectious diseases … anything of that nature—or work on cars.

3. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would definitely be something like being able to transport anywhere. I love traveling, so being able to just one day be in one country and the next minute, be somewhere else would be great.

4. Who has had the greatest influence on you?

The person who has had the greatest influence on me is my grandmother because she was one of the first few people to encourage me to go into a field that—at the time—wasn’t very female-heavy, especially when I started showing interest in cars. She ran with it, buying me little toy sets and car sets, so she was definitely the biggest influence and driver for me to go where I am.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

My favorite thing is the teachers, as a whole, just being willing to help … from the TAs all the way to the professors. If you have problems like I have in that I can’t finish things on time or I have to finish them early, they are always willing to be open and understand and talk through thoughtful options.

(From The Daily, 11/11/2020)