Blake Melnick: Opelika, Alabama

Aerospace engineering lecturer Blake Melnick grew up in Opelika, with Auburn practically in his backyard.

When he enrolled at the University of Alabama, it may have surprised some folks.

But the UA engineering program and campus impressed him, and living three hours away from home was ideal. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in engineering science and mechanics.

Looking at schools where he could pursue his doctoral studies, he “kept coming back to Auburn,” specifically the aerospace program. “After some visits and meeting professors and students, I knew I wanted to come to Auburn. It was nice to come back home,” he said.

While both Alabama and Auburn have idyllic campuses, friendly people and impressive engineering schools, he sees a key difference.

“I will say that Auburn does have a smaller feel to it,” he said. “It seems like everybody knows everybody. There is definitely a true sense of community amongst the students and faculty.”

Since settling on the Plains, he and his wife started BigHouse Foundation, a non-profit ministry offering support for foster and adoptive families. And at Auburn, he found his true calling as an engineer.

“Since my first opportunity to teach a class. I realized that teaching was my passion,” he said. “Auburn allowed me to teach while finishing my degree and has allowed me to continue teaching as a full-time lecturer.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to earn a degree from such an outstanding school and to teach here. I hope to stay here a very long time, helping to educate the next generation of exceptional Auburn engineers,” he added.