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Biomedical Engineer, Future Doctor, Philanthropic Leader: Meet Miss Georgia Tech
Nov 27, 2017
By Polly Ouellette
During half time of this year’s homecoming game, five young men and five young women walked onto the field, each hoping that they would be crowned Mr. or Miss Georgia Tech: a coveted honor claimed by graduating seniors. This year, Renee Copeland, fifth year biomedical engineer, left the field with the crown.
“I think I was in shock at first,” said Copeland. “If you ask me, all I remember from it was that I think I dropped my flowers, and I couldn’t get into the reck.”
For some, being crowned Mr. or Miss Georgia Tech has been a dream ever since they first stepped onto campus. For others, it is something that fell into their lap as a surprising result of the hard work they put into bettering the community.
“On my first date with my boyfriend, he told me that I should run for Miss Georgia Tech,” said Copeland. “I said ‘You don’t even know me. You’re crazy.’ That was two years ago.”
The selection process for Mr. and Miss Georgia Tech is lengthy, but a classic part of Tech’s homecoming week activities. Hopefuls, who were each nominated by a campus organization, slept in a hallway the night before applications were due in order to be one of the 25 applicants that are accepted for each gender. The 50 total seniors each completed essays and interviews, and composed a video presentation that included why they were proud to be a Georgia Tech student and what being a candidate meant to them. Ten female and ten male semifinalists were selected, and campaigning began to see which contestant could get the most votes and be chosen as a finalist. The process was long, but for Copeland the journey to Miss Georgia Tech had begun years earlier as a love for helping her community.
When Copeland entered Tech as a freshman, she was a biochemistry major and thought that she wanted to be a pharmacist. Plans changed when she realized that pharmacists only need two years’ worth of requirements, and Copeland found that she loved Tech so much that she couldn’t leave. So she decided to stay, switch to biomedical engineering and make the most of her time here.
Her involvements include a laundry list of philanthropic organizations and councils. To start with, she has worked with underrepresented minorities as a mentor and camp counselor in the Office of Minority Education Development (OMED) programs, participated in climate survey committees, is a member of an honors leadership society and volunteers at a local children’s hospital. Copeland is particularly passionate about increasing diversity in the field of biomedical engineering and hopes to eventually make an impact as a pediatrician.
Copeland grew up in a homogeneous community, without minority professionals as role models that she could look to for inspiration as she dreamed of being an engineer or doctor. She wants to make sure someone changes that, and is determined to be a positive example for children who need someone to look up to. As a child she looked up to her dad, who worked hard to provide a wonderful lifestyle for her and her sister despite his lack of a college degree and impoverished childhood.
December will bring graduation for Copeland, who has her sights set on medical school. After completing her education, she hopes to work in a hospital or start her own private practice in Atlanta and serve those who can’t afford regular healthcare. And she knows that her engineering degree at Georgia Tech has given her the inspiration, strength and skills she needs to make these dreams a reality.
“Being an engineer has completely changed the way I think about things,” said Copeland. “When you have engineering problems, many times there is no one answer. It's going to set me up for so much success in medical school and in learning how to solve difficult problems.”