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Spotlight on Claire Fraeyman (CHE, M.A.S. ’19): Illinois Tech’s Student Commencement Speaker

At each step along a path that has led Claire Fraeyman (CHE, M.A.S. ‘19) toward a career as an engineer, there has been a woman—a high school teacher who cultivated a love of science, a professional engineer who showed a teenage Fraeyman that engineering was the career for her, an Illinois Tech alumna who served as a mentor and provided the final piece of the puzzle as to what she ultimately wanted to do—who helped nudge her forward. 

“It’s been by chance and by weird luck that I’ve had female managers for almost all of my jobs, that I’ve had these women come into my life and in the moment give me advice that I didn’t know would affect me so much until now,” she says. “It’s been a lot of really cool, powerful females who’ve taught me what I’m capable of.”

Not that Fraeyman, an accelerated co-terminal program student in chemical engineering with a 3.8 grade-point average, hasn’t shown on her own merit that she’s more than capable. A Camras scholar and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society member, Fraeyman has accepted a technical position working at a Proctor and Gamble facility—a manufacturing engineer job that she strived for after an internship where she learned from the Illinois Tech alumna.

During her time at the university, Fraeyman was also a member of the women’s volleyball team, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, served as an Academic Resource Center peer tutor and as a chemical engineering teacher’s assistant and mentor, and held several positions in Kappa Phi Delta, which Fraeyman says provided her fondest memories and unmatched support, both personally and professionally. 

“I’m going to look at the school and look at my experience and be so proud of who I’ve become—because of this school and because of the leadership opportunities I was exposed to, because of the friends that I’ve met, and because of the professors who mentored me and really helped me learn,” she says.

Yet, Fraeyman says the tough times—the “intimidation” of moving to the third-largest city in the country after growing up in a small Michigan town, the early struggles with demanding academics, a knee injury that ended her volleyball career after two seasons—helped her grow in ways she didn’t think possible. That’s what she’s most proud of from her time at Illinois Tech.

“We’re talking academically, socially, mentally, politically. There is only so much you can get out of a small town. I was really scared to make that jump independently. I’m the oldest; having younger brothers, they looked up to me a lot. I wanted to make sure I was modelling this experience appropriately, even though I was struggling sometimes,” she says. “It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows all the time. Overall, this was probably one of the coolest experiences and one of the coolest ways I could prove to myself I could do this.”