Georgia-Grown Graduates

georgia-grown graduates

Georgia-Grown Graduates

By Victor Rogers may 1, 2018

For many Georgia Tech graduates, Georgia has always been home. Some grew up attending Tech football games and cheering for the Yellow Jackets; others grew up in Bulldog families but decided that white and gold was more to their liking.

Here are a few of this year’s Georgia-grown stories.


state of georgia

yash chandramouli

Yash Chandramouli

Johns Creek, Georgia

Some of Yash Chandramouli’s earliest memories are of his radio engineer grandfather teaching him how airplanes work.

“I guess something struck a chord,” said Chandramouli, who is earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in international affairs. “I wasn’t really sure what area within engineering I wanted to pursue. I joke that I picked aerospace because it was first on the drop-down menu for engineering, and it saved me some time.”

Chandramouli grew up in Johns Creek, Georgia. He has one older sister, Shruti, who graduated from Tech with a degree in biology and is now doing her medical residency.

When he arrived at Tech, Chandramouli was interested in the aircraft side of aerospace engineering. By the end of his third year, he realized he was more passionate about space than aircraft, and he decided to dedicate his time exploring that area. This summer he will be an intern at both OneWeb, a global communications company, and at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This fall he will continue his studies in graduate school at Stanford University.

“I see graduate school as a way to learn more about space, and also as a way to explore other hobbies and interests outside of school,” Chandramouli said. “I’m very entrepreneurial, and there’s a lot of entrepreneurship happening in the space industry.”

india club
Yash (in back) with Movement As One Dance Company before a performance at Georgia Tech India Club's Holi Show this spring. 

Chandramouli said choosing where to go for graduate school was the biggest decision he has had to make. Other schools would have provided him a research project from the beginning, but at Stanford he will have to compete for research opportunities.

“Stanford is more of a risk,” he said. “But I’m willing to take that risk to pursue the research that really excites me.” 

Chandramouli is passionate about using space to help people on Earth. For example, at OneWeb he will be working on technology that allows satellites to provide internet all over the world — to disaster zones, developing countries, rural areas, and locations at sea.

“I like to think about space as a powerful unifier,” he said. “Every single person around the world sees the same stars. It’s the one thing that is equally accessible by everyone. That’s where I see the potential for space, and it’s what makes me so passionate about it.”

elizabeth clonts

Elizabeth Clonts

Rome, Georgia

Elizabeth Clonts wants to become a nurse practitioner. She’s graduating from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in health and medical sciences, and this fall she will begin her studies at Emory University’s Woodruff School of Nursing.

“I should have gone to a school with a nursing major. But by the time I figured it out, I liked it here too much to leave,” said Clonts, who is accustomed to the puzzled looks she gets when she says she plans to become a nurse.

She is the youngest of three daughters, and she was determined to go to college out of state like her sisters. Tech was not on her list until she toured the campus.

“My mom made me tour here,” she said, smiling. “I fell in love with it, and it was my first choice after I visited.”

elizabeth at dance marathon
Elizabeth, pictured with Olivia Harvey, participates in Dance Marathon — For the Kids' largest event of the year — in March. 

Clonts started at Tech as a biology/pre-med major because she thought she would go to medical school. But, now she plans to become a nurse practitioner.

“Family is very important to me, and I want to be able to raise my own family. [This field] is much more flexible when it comes to work schedules. And, it’s fewer years in school.”

She plans to work as a registered nurse for a while before deciding what area to specialize in as a nurse practitioner. Right now, she is considering oncology.

“It’s calculated,” she said. “I like high stakes, but lower paced.”

Clonts is a Phi Mu sorority member, and served as a FASET leader and volunteer with For the Kids, a philanthropic dance marathon organization. She also had a part-time job with Georgia Tech Professional Education, working with the professional master’s program.

She will celebrate her graduation with her parents, both sisters, her brother-in-law, and her boyfriend Ryan Rich, who graduated from Tech in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Before starting nursing school in the fall, Clonts will spend the summer in her hometown of Rome, Georgia, recharging and maybe bartending.

evan long

Evan Long

Lilburn, Georgia

Evan Long has Georgia Tech in his blood. His mom and dad — Kelli Crawford Long from Stone Mountain and Todd Long from Hinesville, Georgia — met when they were Tech students. His dad earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1989 and a master’s degree in 1990; his mom earned an industrial engineering degree in 1990. The family lives in Lilburn.

“My entire life I’ve been pushed toward being a Georgia Tech fan, at least in football,” Long said. “I didn’t wear red when I was little. I had one red ‘101 Dalmatians’ T-shirt, and I didn’t like wearing it. Two years ago, I bought a red shirt, and it was the first time I wore red in a very long time. It was very much ingrained in me as a Georgia Tech fan. I thought UGA was evil,” he joked.

Evan talks about trading a suit for a commencement gown.

Because Long wanted to major in international affairs instead of engineering, he was open to looking at schools other than Tech — including the University of Georgia.

“I picked my major when I was in eighth grade,” Long said. “I’m very future-focused, so even back then I realized I liked international affairs. History is my favorite subject, and international affairs is a practical extension of history. I also like the government aspect of it. So, I always wanted to major in international affairs, and do something in the government.”

Since the second semester of his freshman year, Long has worked in Tech’s Office of Government and Community Relations. He also interned twice at the State Capitol, including once in the office of Majority Whip Steve Gooch.

evan long
Evan Long (left) and his older brother, Drew, at the Wreck Parade as children in 1997. 

“It was a blast. Very hectic. It was fun being on the ground level for everything,” he said.

Long is graduating with a degree in international affairs, a certificate in public policy, and a certificate in European Union Affairs. His academic focus at Georgia Tech has been to prepare himself for a career that deals with state and regional issues, including economic development.

“What you do to entice companies to Georgia and what you do to prepare people who are already here to expand Georgia businesses — that’s really what I have focused on,” he said. “I’m also going to law school, so I will have a variety of options. I think I have made a unique niche for myself.”

Long will begin law school at the University of Georgia this fall.

ben milner

Ben Milner

Mableton, Georgia

Ben Milner comes from a family of engineers, with cousins and uncles who are aerospace, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers. He is following in the mechanical engineering footsteps of his father, Clay, and grandfather, Douglas.

“My dad went to Southern Tech when it was a division of Georgia Tech,” Milner said. “The program that he took in the late 1970s and early 1980s was the same program that my grandfather took here at Georgia Tech in the late 1930s and early 1940s. My dad and my grandfather would compare notes because they took the same classes and used the same manuals.”

ben milner's father and grandfather
Ben's grandfather, Douglas Milner, pictured (left) at his Georgia Tech graduation, and (right, center) in his Army uniform in 1944. He served on Iwo Jima. 

Milner, who grew up in Mableton, Georgia, has a younger sister who is studying veterinary medicine at the University of Georgia.

“She threw a wrench in the pot,” he said. “Everybody likes to tease her a little for that.”

Milner is finishing his third year at Georgia Tech after studying for two years at Southern Polytechnic State University (now part of Kennesaw State University). He has fond memories of his involvement with the Georgia Tech Cycling Team and with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

“My last homecoming game as a student was probably the best memory,” he said. His dad arranged for Milner’s girlfriend, America Liborio, who is now his fiancé, to surprise him by attending the game. They went to the Wreck Parade, made a trip to The Varsity, and watched the game like Milner did when he was little.

“It had been a long time since I didn’t have to worry about grades. I was able to just enjoy myself for a while,” he said.

Milner, who enjoys cycling and road bikes, is interviewing with a variety of industries. Eventually he would like to work in the cycling industry.

“If I could become a test engineer or design engineer for any of the big-name cycling companies that would be a dream come true,” he said.

Caroline Pietsch

Caroline Pietsch

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Even though she grew up going to Georgia Tech games with her dad Daren, who graduated from Tech in 1991 with a mechanical engineering degree, Caroline Pietsch didn’t think she would go to Tech.

“Tech was never on my radar. I never thought I could get in,” said Pietsch, who is from St. Simons Island, Georgia. “My dad was an engineer, and I grew up hearing how hard it was for him. Of course, he loved it.”

So, she decided to apply, thinking that she should at least apply to the school she has been a fan of since she was little.

caroline pietsch
Caroline Pietsch at age three, dressed as a Georgia Tech cheerleader.

“Once I was accepted, I could not say no. And I’m glad I didn’t,” she said. “Tech has so much to offer.”

Pietsch knew she did not want to be an engineer. She started at Tech in international affairs, then later switched to applied languages. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in applied languages and intercultural studies (ALIS), with a certificate in international business and a language concentration in Spanish.

She was at Tech for five years, which included one summer and spring studying in Spain. She credits the study abroad experience, along with her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, with helping her get out of her comfort zone to interact with new people.

Pietsch said because she was, at first, undecided about what career path to take, she interned with several companies, including Marmi Natural Stone in Norcross, Georgia, to get a sense of the available options.

After graduation Pietsch will work for Marmi as a sales and project coordinator. Marmi is one of the nation’s largest integrated suppliers of natural stone from around the globe, catering to the specific needs of architects, designers, and general contractors for both commercial and residential purposes. Pietsch was a marketing intern with the company last semester, then she got into sales.

Her parents, her dad’s parents, her mom’s mother, and her boyfriend will celebrate Commencement with her.

lisa reed

Lisa Reed

Dacula, Georgia

At Mill Creek High School in Dacula, Georgia, Lisa Reed played “Who do I know?” while looking at classmates in her graduating class of about 800 students. In comparison, her major at Georgia Tech, nuclear and radiological engineering (NRE), has approximately 100 undergraduates. 

“At Georgia Tech in NRE, I know everyone in my class, and most people in the major. Very different,” Reed said.

Why did she choose nuclear engineering?

“Nuclear engineering is the happy marriage of mechanical engineering and physics,” Reed said. “I like mechanical engineering, and I took four years of engineering courses in high school. I also took a huge liking to physics at Mill Creek.”

Lisa talks more about her time at Tech and why she loved her major.

At Tech, Reed was active in the American Nuclear Society, an organization that ties together the community and the Nuclear Engineering Department with activities that run the gamut from trivia night and intramurals, to conferences and career advice.

During her four years at Tech, Reed spent one summer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, running radiation dose simulations and learning about code development. The next summer, she worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was very focused on nuclear nonproliferation.

This summer, Reed is starting Tech’s Ph.D. program in nuclear engineering, with a graduate research assistantship for the first year. She will study computational reactor physics.

“It’s very math heavy. I think it’s a math major in disguise,” Reed joked.

Her end goal is to work in a think-tank type of environment, developing solutions to global problems.

So, who’s coming to celebrate Commencement? Her mom and dad — Kristi and Craig Reed (who met as students at Georgia Tech) — will be there, along with her brother, and her grandparents.

austin sanders

Austin Sanders

Elberton, Georgia

After graduating from Georgia Tech, Austin Sanders will graduate again one week later. He is part of the dual-degree program between Georgia Tech and Georgia College and State University (GCSU) in Milledgeville, Georgia. He is graduating with honors from both universities, with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tech, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from GCSU.

“I’m glad the scheduling worked out so I can participate in both ceremonies,” said Sanders, who is looking forward to hearing his name called with the honors distinction. “It has been a long five years.”

austin sanders wins outstanding undergraduate in civil engineering award
Sanders receives the 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate in Civil Engineering Award at the Student Honors Celebration.

Sanders grew up as a University of Georgia fan in Elberton, Georgia, about 45 minutes east of Athens near the South Carolina border.

He started college at GCSU and went there for three years before transferring to Tech. At Tech, he was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers student organization. He also was a member of Chi Epsilon, Gamma Beta Phi, and Tau Beta Pi honor societies. A few weeks ago he received the School Chair’s Outstanding Senior Award in Civil Engineering.

His civil engineering classes have had a structural focus.

“I always had an interest in buildings,” Sanders said. “I also like the idea of working with bridges or road work design. So, civil engineering was the field to go into.”

He plans to work as a structural engineer for a company in metro Atlanta, and he would like to become certified as a professional engineer. He also wants to return to Tech to earn a master’s degree.

His mom and dad will join him in Atlanta to celebrate Commencement.

morgan stephens

Morgan Stephens

Fayetteville, Georgia

For the family of Morgan Stephens, industrial engineering and Georgia Tech is a way of life. Her maternal grandfather, her mother, and an aunt all have industrial engineering degrees from Georgia Tech. Her dad has a Tech degree, too — but in building construction, and Stephens is getting a degree in biomedical engineering.

“I think I would make a good industrial engineer,” she said. “I have always been wired like an industrial engineer: Everything has to be done in the most efficient way.”

But Stephens is charting her own path with biomedical engineering.

“I wanted to do something that would keep me interested and invested,” she said. “I enjoy science, health care, and medicine, and my soft skills are my biggest strengths. Biomedical engineering is a good blend of skills that can be applicable in many different fields.”

morgan stephens
Morgan Stephens (right) attends a game with her dad, Thomas Stephens, and players Kelly Campbell and Joe Hamilton. 

After graduating, she will be a consultant for Insight Sourcing Group (ISG) in Norcross.

“I loved the company culture,” she said. “ISG brings in talent from many different backgrounds: engineering, business, history, science. They value the variety.”

Stephens said being close to family is important. In her job, she will have the opportunity to travel, but she will not be on the road all of the time. She is considering getting her MBA or a master’s degree in biomedical innovation and design, via Georgia Tech’s Pathways Program.

Commencement will be a family celebration on campus. Her parents, Thomas Stephens and Lisa Volmar, met at Georgia Tech. In 1984, her mom became the first female driver of the Ramblin’ Wreck. Stephens is a member of the Reck Club.

john foster

John Foster

Fitzgerald, Georgia

A year ago, John Foster’s older brother graduated with a degree in finance from Georgia Tech, making him the first in the family to go to Tech.

“My mom’s side of the family is composed exclusively of die-hard UGA fans,” said Foster, who is getting his own Tech degree this spring. “So, it’s a nice little dose of rebellion to graduate from Georgia’s most prestigious college.”

Foster is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. His concentration is in operations and supply chain management, with a minor in engineering and business through the Denning Technology and Management (T&M) Program.

As a business student, he was heavily involved in organizations affiliated with the Scheller College: He was one of the Scheller Business Ambassadors; served as a team leader for GT1000, Georgia Tech’s freshman seminar; and he was a student within the Denning T&M Program.

He also was president of his fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, whose chapter won the national Top TKE Award among 245 chapters.

“My most significant highlight during my time at Tech was getting engaged to my now-fiancé Leah Ward,” Foster said. “Leah and I both grew up in our small hometown of Fitzgerald, Georgia, about an hour north of the Georgia-Florida border. We began dating in the eighth grade.”

After graduating, Foster plans to enjoy some down time during the summer.

“I will be doing absolutely nothing for a month or two, which is exactly what I want to do after a long final semester,” he said. “I do plan on catching up on some tennis with my dad in my hometown and hopefully playing a gig or two on the drums with the cover band I play for.”

In September, Foster will begin his career as a strategy analyst with Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy.

“I’ll be doing strategy consulting projects on client sites Monday through Thursday. In the longer term, I’d like to learn critical business problem-solving skills in order to return to my hometown and stimulate socioeconomic growth through commercial development.”

leah ward

Leah Ward

Fitzgerald, Georgia

When Leah Ward walks across the Commencement stage, she will be her family’s third generation to graduate from Georgia Tech. 

“My grandfather graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering (1958), and my mom and dad graduated from Tech with degrees in industrial engineering (1986) and mechanical engineering (1985) respectively,” Ward said. “In addition to that, my aunt and uncle both graduated from Tech with degrees in management (1988) and mechanical engineering (1979) respectively. Gold and white runs deep in my blood. I almost don’t have enough graduation tickets for the alumni in my family.”

Ward is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. Among the highlights from her time at Tech was being president of her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.

“There is nothing more challenging and rewarding than leading a group of such talented and high-performing women,” she said. “I learned so much about who I am and how I lead that I will take with me into the workforce.”

In addition to her sorority, Ward was involved in the Honorary Accounting Organization, which helped her to land an internship and ultimately a full-time position with Deloitte. Beginning this fall, she will be an audit assistant for Deloitte, in their Atlanta office.

“I hope to be able to focus on health care institutions, in order to eventually use what I have learned to return to my hometown of Fitzgerald, Georgia in order to help launch a rural health care transformation,” she said.

Ward said that Fitzgerald will always have a very special place in her heart.

“It is a town that revolves around its youth,” she said. “I remember being in the newspaper from time to time — whether it be for an academic or athletic accomplishment — and how it helped to build my confidence. Despite being in the midst of many challenges, there are amazing coaches, teachers, and community members that give back in an exceptional way.”

After graduation, Ward will return to Fitzgerald for the summer to plan her wedding to John Foster. She also will begin the process of obtaining her CPA license.

john foster and leah ward, then and now

(Left) John and Leah at their high school graduation in Fitzgerald in 2014. (Right) John and Leah on campus this month.



Writer: Victor Rogers
Designer: Kristen Bailey
Photographers: Allison Carter, Rob Felt, Christopher Moore
Personal photos courtesy of the graduates.