Each year at Academic Recognition Day, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) honors one undergraduate student from each of its 26 institutions who best represents the system’s highest scholastic ideals. This year’s representative from Georgia Tech is Morgan Knowlton, a standout student from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE).
Knowlton has served in leadership roles across campus, representing both the Stewart School and Tech students, is a Stamps President’s Scholar, a member of the Georgia Tech Honors Program and three honors societies, and an undergraduate teaching assistant. In addition to receiving her degree in industrial engineering, she is scheduled to graduate in May with a minor in business and engineering through the Scheller College of Business’ Denning Technology & Management (T&M) Program.
While Knowlton is now a true Georgia Tech engineer, she didn’t always know this would be her path. During her junior year of high school, her mother — a University of Georgia alumna — suggested that they tour the Georgia Tech College of Engineering (COE). Knowlton was initially unaware of the field of industrial engineering and did not think she was a future engineer.
“At the time, my understanding of engineering was limited to the fields of aerospace and mechanical engineering,” Knowlton recalled. However, during the prospective student presentation, there was a brief description of each of the eight schools that compose the COE. When she saw the ISyE slide, something clicked. “I had known what I wanted to study, but I did not know what it was called. In that information session, I suddenly had a name. From that moment in my junior year of high school, I was a Georgia Tech industrial engineer.”
Knowlton then attended an ISyE-specific information session hosted by the ISyE Ambassadors. Following the presentation, she made a list in the front cover of her freshman year planner of the goals she wanted to accomplish during her time at Georgia Tech. The list included studying abroad at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and through the ISyE Summer in Asia program, interning at Walt Disney World, and participating in the Denning T&M Program. During her time at the Institute, she has been able to cross all these things off of her list — and achieve so much more.
The ISyE Ambassadors made such a lasting impression on Knowlton that she wanted to become part of the group as a first-year to give back to other prospective students. At the time, students could not apply to the program until after completion of their first year. However, even as a new student at the Institute, Knowlton already had a reputation for being responsible, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic and was given special permission to join the group. After two years as an ambassador, she became vice president of external affairs and now serves as president during her fifth and final year with the organization. As a member of the executive board, Knowlton has made sure that the organization always welcomes a few first-year students into the group.
Of her many accomplishments, Knowlton says, becoming a Stamps President’s Scholar in the fall of her sophomore year is the one that had the greatest impact on her journey at Tech. The scholarship is traditionally awarded to 40 first-year students — less than 2% of the incoming class — and covers tuition, fees, and expenses. It also provides recipients with a stipend for select experiences such as study abroad, unpaid internships, unpaid research, or conferences. Knowlton was nominated by the ISyE Academic Office for one of the limited “walk-on” scholarships awarded each year to current students, and was accepted into the program, along with two other undergraduates, in 2017.
“My experience at Georgia Tech changed overnight,” Knowlton says of becoming a Stamps President’s Scholar. “The additional funding enabled me to study abroad twice, and I believe the award was instrumental in helping me achieve some of my other objectives, such as acceptance into the Denning T&M program and two internships at Walt Disney World. But more importantly, I joined a community of people who were making an impact on the world. Being around these people, and hearing their inspiring stories, unquestionably shaped my understanding of my life’s purpose. Beforehand, I was living for myself, and now I see my life as a tool to help others.”
This semester, Knowlton and seven similarly inspired teammates are working with the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services for their Senior Design project, which is designed to improve the quality of life for both social workers and protected children through workload balancing and resource allocation across the state.
Knowlton has also learned to use the many resources provided to Georgia Tech students to help her achieve her goals.
When she was ready to apply for an internship at Disney, Knowlton reached out to the Georgia Tech Student Alumni Association to see if they could connect her with an alumni mentor who worked for Disney. Her mentor shared an internship opportunity for an industrial engineer in the costuming department — a dream come true for Knowlton, who is an avid ballroom dancer.
“Everyone knows that the Disney princesses have the biggest and best dresses,” she said with a smile. “I was doing data analytics, but I was doing it in an environment that I loved. I know the word ‘magical’ is always used when referring to Disney, but it truly was a magical experience.”
Knowlton believes that her faith helps guide her in everything she does. Given all that she’s accomplished in her five years at Georgia Tech, it’s no wonder that she was selected as the Institute’s representative for the prestigious USG Academic Recognition Day Award. And receiving this honor is especially meaningful for Knowlton.
“Being selected for this award is very personal to me. I have always felt at home at Georgia Tech,” she said. “I truly believe that this is where I am supposed to be. Being selected as the Institute’s honoree feels like confirmation that I belong here.”
Academic Recognition Day honorees receive a resolution from the Georgia House of Representatives along with a letter of commendation from USG Chancellor. In previous years, the students were recognized in person at either at a meeting of the state legislature or a Board of Regents meeting. However, this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event will likely be held virtually.
Knowlton authored a student essay, "The Problem with Solutions," in the 2019 ISyE alumni magazine.