Software engineering junior follows in parents' engineering footsteps

By Cassie Montgomery and Lauren Winton

Published: Feb 1, 2021 10:37:00 AM

The Foster family, from left: Bernard, '92 industrial engineering, software engineering junior Adia, pharmacy student Zuri and Mendolyn, '92 electrical engineering. The Foster family, from left: Bernard, '92 industrial engineering, software engineering junior Adia, pharmacy student Zuri and Mendolyn, '92 electrical engineering.

For many, the love for Auburn University is hard to deny. Such is the case for the Foster family, three of whom chose to pursue engineering degrees at Auburn with the fourth pursuing a degree in pharmacy just across campus. Auburn Engineering opened many doors for Bernard, ’92 industrial engineering, Mendolyn, ’92 electrical engineering, and now, software engineering junior Adia Foster. And though the times have changed, the impact of the Auburn experience has not. 

“I was only ever going to Auburn,” Mendolyn said. “There was no other place that I was going to go. I laugh now that I only applied to one school – this notion of applying to multiple schools is foreign to me. It was Auburn or bust for me.” 

The Montgomery native was introduced to engineering in her junior year of high school by her science teacher. A self-described homebody, she was attracted to Auburn for its proximity to her hometown and its strong engineering reputation was an added bonus. As an incoming freshman, Mendolyn attended the Minority Introduction to Engineering (MITE) summer program – now known as the Engineering Academic Excellence Program’s (AEP) Summer Bridge – where she was introduced to the different engineering disciplines the college offered. 

“Electrical engineering lit a spark for me that stuck,” she said. “The MITE program is what guided me to engineering and convinced me that electrical was for me.” 

Bernard’s path to Auburn Engineering was one paved by a friend’s older brothers and his older cousin, all of whom were pursuing engineering degrees on the Plains. After initially choosing electrical engineering, Bernard found his niche in industrial engineering. His freshman year, he walked onto the football team and spent his first year trying to find balance in his life as a student-athlete. 

“It was a tough year academically and I decided I needed to make a choice. Either I can play football or I can be an engineer – I couldn’t do both,” he said. “So I gave up football and focused on engineering and I never looked back … well, maybe once or twice.” 

Both Bernard and Mendolyn were active in student organizations, especially the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), which Bernard led as president from ’91-’92. It was at NSBE’s Fall Regional Conference that the two met their senior year. After that first meeting, Mendolyn completed a co-op position in Birmingham and was back on campus in the spring. 

“Conveniently he was waiting for me on April 1 when I walked out of Broun Hall and I think we’ve been joined ever since,” Mendolyn said. 

The Fosters have both enjoyed successful careers – Mendolyn in telecommunications as the Alabama state director for Byers Engineering, based in Atlanta, and Bernard as industrial engineering supervisor at Reem Manufacturing in Montgomery – and they owe much of their success to time they spent at Auburn. 

“Auburn taught me problem solving. I tell my employees that you don’t have to have all of the answers, you just need to know where to find them,” Mendolyn said. 

One of the biggest takeaways for Bernard was work ethic. 

“If you’re going to get an engineering degree from Auburn, it won’t always be easy,” he said. “A lot of times you’ll have to push through things, to keep going and not give up. So, an engineering degree from Auburn teaches you work ethic.” 

Both of Mendolyn and Bernard’s children followed in their footsteps and are currently attending Auburn University. Adia went a step further, and she is not only pursuing a degree in engineering but serves as president of NSBE. She also serves as the recruiting and outreach committee head for AEP. 

Although Mendolyn and Bernard graduated from Auburn before the start of AEP – which started as the Minority Engineering Program – they could not be more proud of the program and Adia’s involvement in it. 

“Everything that I think of that’s great about Auburn, all my great memories, usually involve somebody from the Academic Excellence Program,” she said. “Through the Academic Excellence Program, you find people who are very like-minded, who want to have a good time but who also know the importance of studying. It is the community that I longed for coming to Auburn and it’s the best.” 

For the Fosters, the Auburn Family is real. And the sense of purpose, of community and connection Adia has found through AEP comes full circle. What started with two like-minded engineers meeting at a gathering for other Black engineering students has created a legacy that inspired the next generation to go, learn and engineer a new future.

You can listen to Adia's interview on the #GINNing Podcast below.

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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