Andrea Umaña talks about Purdue with a mix of gratitude, nostalgia, and joy. She started her B.S. at Universidad de los Andes, in Bogota, but decided to transfer to a U.S. university. She picked Purdue for its renowned excellence in many fields, but especially in Industrial Engineering, the career she decided to pursue. She moved to West Lafayette in 2003, and graduated in December of 2005.
She recalled having lived with a roommate in Hillenbrand during her first year at Purdue. At the time, she had to face the challenges derived from having to adapt to a new home, a new school, and an entirely new system. Andrea must have adapted very well, because the following year she moved to Hawkins, and participated in numerous activities both in and outside the classroom. She played tennis and volleyball, and she became part of the Social Committee for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, SHPE. But even with all of that, she still had enough energy to be part of the only nationally accepted Industrial Engineering Honors Society, Alpha Pi Mu. While at Purdue, she did an internship in operations at General Electric in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her performance secured her a job at GE after graduation. She worked with locomotives for some years, before she was transferred to Monterrey, Mexico.
Andrea is not the kind of person that will stay in the same place for a long time. In 2007, she moved to New York, and a year later, she earned her M.S. in Operations Research at Columbia University. She claims the experience was entirely different from the one she had at Purdue. This might have been, perhaps, because of the difference between living in a small college town, versus residing in the heart of New York City. Or maybe because of the difference between undergraduate and graduate studies. The truth of the matter is that Andrea had closer friends, and a true community life while at Purdue.
She stayed in New York working as a consultant after she graduated, but in 2009 she returned to Colombia. She was eager to see her family, but also to do something for her country. She now runs her own consulting company, and deals with important financial firms. She still works closely with Purdue, especially since Gilberto Gómez, also a Purdue alum, contacted her a few years ago. With direction from the American Embassy in Colombia, they are helping to create the US Alumni Network. Andrea is one of the ten members of its Executive Committee, and she has been instrumental in the consolidation of the Purdue Colombian Alumni Database.
Andrea has witnessed Purdue’s commitment to support development projects in Colombia. “This institutional effort has fostered a deep sense of belonging in many of Purdue’s Colombian alums”, she says. “I love the sense of family I had while being at Purdue, and how close I was to my friends. I love the campus, and the trees, especially during the summer. I can almost sense their smell”, she recalls with a smile that, for a few seconds, has the power to dissolve the distance between Purdue and Colombia.
Andrea with her family the day of her graduation from Purdue.