High Flying Engineers

Senior and Electrical Engineering major Cat Truong acknowledges that there are stereotypes of both cheerleaders and engineers, and most people think that those stereotypes "don't really mix." But she and fellow senior Becca Ryan (Civil Engineering) are proving to their peers and professors that they can succeed in both worlds as they earn their undergraduate degrees in engineering while cheering for Gonzaga Men's and Women's Basketball teams.

Cat Truong
Cat Truong (Electrial Engineering, 2014)

Becca started cheering as an 8-year-old in a peewee booster league and "just never quit." She enjoyed the team aspect of the sport, as well as the development of gymnastic skills and physical strength. At Regis Jesuit High School near Denver, Colorado, Becca was captain of her school's team while also participating with a competitive team. She hadn't planned on cheering at Gonzaga until sitting in the Kennel Club during her freshman year and deciding that she didn't like "that view of the court." She tried out and made the Gonzaga Cheerleading team during her sophomore year and is currently one of the team captains.

Cat, who also cheered in high school at Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley, Washington, didn't think she'd be cheering in college either. "During my freshman year, I wanted to see how my engineering workload would play into everything," Cat explained, adding that she was glad she took a year off so she could explore other activities and interests as a college student.

The Gonzaga Cheerleading team requires as significant time commitment of its members with multiple 2-hour practices and sometimes multiple home games per week, as well as travel to post-season tournaments. Both Becca and Cat cite good time management and organization skills as key to balancing academics, cheerleading, and other interests.

Becca Ryan
Becca Ryan (Civil Engineering, 2014)

"After my freshman year, I was worried about the time commitment of cheer, but it's made me better with my time management," Becca said. "I think I do better on my assignments because I'm really focused on getting them done right away."

Maintaining good communication with professors and classmates is another important factor for both cheerleaders.

"My professors have gotten to know my work ethic, so they're pretty accommodating when I need to travel for tournaments," Cat said. "You have to build that trust with them from the start."

This year has required extra preparation as they work on their Senior Design projects, which all engineering students must complete with a team of three to five students. Becca’s project, sponsored by the Spokane Tribe of Indians, is a water restoration plan to improve Blue Creek water flow to accommodate spawning fish. Cat’s team is performance testing new wireless communication technologies by Schweitzer Engineering Labs.

"This [project] has been amazing because it's basically a 9-month internship. And it's better for a real-world experience because you're not going to be working on just one project for eight hours a day. You have other classes that are like other projects you’d have at work, so you have prioritize and balance your time," Becca explained.

Despite a full schedule of engineering and cheering, Becca and Cat still find time to pursue other interests. Dog-lover Becca volunteers regularly at Spokanimal, a local humane society, and Cat, who is also an Act Six scholar, gets emotional and spiritual refreshment at University Ministry retreats.

"I already get a physical workout with cheerleading, but you have to find the balance between mind, body, and spirit, and I really think that Gonzaga does try to develop the person as a whole," Cat said. Both Cat and Becca appreciate Gonzaga's development of the Cura Personalis and its focus on community improvement.

"Cheering at Gonzaga is such a unique experience. The vibe from the crowd, it just gets you amped," said Becca. "I could be having such a terrible day and not looking forward to going to a game at all. But it's the second that you walk onto the court, it just completely takes you over. And you can't not feel jazzed."

Learn more about what it's like to study engineering and computer science at Gonzaga at SEAS Current Students.