Aubri Paredes’ day doesn’t begin like most of her fellow classmates. As a member of the Army ROTC at West Virginia University, her day begins with ruck marches, pushups, pullups and cardio training all before the start of her 8 a.m. Design of Productive Systems class.
“You’ve already started your day accomplishing so much and it feels really good,” she said. “Although some days I am exhausted from the training, other days it serves as an excellent motivator. A lot of times I say that being in the military has saved my life.”
She admitted that coming to Morgantown was a culture shock. Paredes’ family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was six years old. First landing in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and later following her father’s military career to Alabama, then Texas, relocating to Germany and finally to what she now considers home, Rahway, New Jersey
“Looking back, I’m really glad that I came here. I do really like it. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and helped me develop a new perspective and skillsets that I didn’t even know I could have,” she explained.
Before she became a soldier, Paredes had her sights set on studying industrial engineering. “I chose industrial engineering because I love learning about business processes and solving problems, and I like to be challenged,” she explained. “I really enjoy calculus and science as well. I found it was the perfect major because it was the perfect integration of both.”
As an Army ROTC cadet, Paredes is required to participate in physical training every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, as well as a weekend drill every month and a two week annual training every summer. Some drills required a week of sleeping in the field at Camp Dawson in Preston County or Fort Pickett in Virginia. As a petroleum lab specialist, her responsibility was to drive the fuel truck, driving from site to site refilling large military vehicles with fuel.
On top of the demands of her industrial engineering curriculum, she took an extra elective course through Army ROTC and served as vice president of communications for Culturas WVU, an association for Latinx, Hispanic students and allies on campus.
“Being an engineering major has definitely been difficult at times because of ROTC; there were a lot of times when I didn’t think I could do it and didn’t think that it was worth it,” Paredes said. “It takes a lot out of you. You know, I can’t stay up late like my friends and study because I have to be up so early. So, during the day, I’m just bombarded with work, so I don’t have to do any at night.”
The lessons Paredes has learned through her military career and her academic career have served as a complement to one another. Her military career gave her the discipline and maturity needed to become a successful student, while her academic career helped her learn to think critically in order to solve difficult problems.
“Being in the military provides a very different perspective and forces you to mature. You’re thrown into a very structured environment that doesn’t allow room for excuses,” she explained. “It really shapes you to be this person that is like, ‘Okay, I understand that I have to get this done,’ and you just do it. It helps you stay on track and really stay on top of your goals. It really helped me build a good work ethic and have discipline.”
Paredes now works in the 115th Engineering Company (unit) in Clarksburg. As a cadet, she shadows officers, takes accountability for soldiers in the unit and assists in the daily operations of drill.
“Studying industrial engineering has been a huge help for my job in the military. Truthfully, it makes the problems that I come across in my job seem way easier because in school you’re working through these really technical mathematical problems,” she continued.
She expressed that the most important lesson she’s learned during her time at WVU is to not be afraid to step out of her comfort zone and try new things.
“I’ve learned that I have grown the most when I’ve done things that I never even thought I would be able to do,” Paredes said.
After graduation, Paredes will commission as a 2LT in the National Guard on an eight-year contract in New Jersey, allowing her to be closer to home. Paredes plans to advance in her military career and continue serving as an officer in the National Guard.“I love being in the military. I wasn’t born in the USA, but this country has given me so much,” she said. “I’m happy to serve.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office: