Supporting future electrical engineers

John Freeman ’58 and Sakiynah Howard ’20

Sakiynah Howard

A young Sakinyah Howard played Guitar Hero, her favorite video game, nonstop—until the controller broke. “We couldn’t afford to buy a new one, so I took it apart to find the problem. I loved the sense of accomplishment when I fixed it myself.”

That task sparked Howard’s interest in electronics and circuit design. She’s moved on from video game controller repair to creating a wearable real-time injury prevention system that monitors muscle movements while exercising to improve form and prevent injury in her electrical engineering senior design project with MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Howard makes the most of every moment at UMassD. She is president of the student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, treasurer of the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.

“I’ve learned time management skills, how to network, and even conquered my fear of public speaking by being a part of these organizations,” she said.

But, even with federal financial aid, Howard must still work 20-30 hours a week to cover the remaining balance for the year. After work, she meets her study group from 8:00 p.m. until midnight to prepare for exams.

John Freeman ’58 understands the challenge for students who are responsible for paying their tuition. He established the John A. Freeman Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance to junior or senior electrical engineering majors who are also Fall River residents. “I recognize the cost of attending college is getting higher and higher each year. I always thought that if I had the capacity to help a student in need, I would.”

“My father died when I was in high school, so I had to work to make it through college,” Freeman said. “I’d like to think that I am making a difference to those who might have similar situations or are going through hardships while trying to make college a reality.”

Howard is a two-time recipient of the scholarship, which has allowed her to reduce her hours at work. “I am grateful to receive this scholarship. Now, I can spend more time on my studies.”

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