OU freshman awarded full-ride scholarship by the US Department of Defense

Rachel Yim, Science & Technology Reporter

One of the awardees of the U.S. Department of Defense’s annual National Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation scholarship (SMART) is Bianca Vitale, freshman at Oakland University.

I feel on top of the world receiving this award,” Vitale said. “It is an honor to just be considered for it.

SMART scholarship-for-service program provides students a unique opportunity with a full scholarship for up to five years, internships and guarantees employment at Department of Defense labs or facilities. There are over 200 Department of Defense labs or facilities across the Army, Navy and Air Force where students will continue on after graduation. 

Through this opportunity, recipients of SMART scholarship award will be able to pursue complex research to further the mission of the Department of Defense. During summer internships, SMART Scholars work directly with an experienced mentor, gaining valuable technical skills.

Since 2012, OU has had ten students that received SMART scholarships, including Vitale. Vitale’s recognition continues a nine-year streak of at least one OU student being an awardee of the SMART scholarship.

As an upcoming sophomore at OU, Vitale is majoring in mechanical engineering with a specialty in automotive engineering and is a part of the Honors College. Her dream and passion for working in the automotive industry started in high school.

“Throughout high school, I always envisioned myself working at one of the major three automotive companies in Michigan,” Vitale said. “It never crossed my mind that I could work for the Department of Defense, and when I was first introduced to the idea, it seemed impossible.”

Having her close family members in the automotive industry, Vitale has always been surrounded by the field. She was also a part of the engineering program at her high school.

“I’d really like to work on the ground vehicles,” Vitale said during her interview with the Civic CenterTV. “Just because automotive is what I want to go into, working in that field would definitely be beneficial to me.”

As a young woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated engineering field, Vitale was concerned about the challenges often faced by women. However, as time progressed, she realized she could help bridge the gap between the two genders in the field.

She also expressed her gratitude for her professors at OU this past semesters for their understanding of the difficulties students have been facing during the pandemic.

Moving forward, Vitale hopes to earn a permanent job at the Department of Defense and return to school to pursue further education in the field.

“I plan on returning to school to pursue both my master’s degree in either mechanical engineering or mechatronic systems engineering and eventually my doctorates in those same categories,” she said.

With that vision to create “a highly skilled Department of Defense STEM workforce that competes with the dynamic trends in technology and innovation to protect national security,” the SMART program provides a variety of opportunities to more than 200 students annually.

For more information on the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program or to learn how students can apply, visit www.smartscholarship.org