Stanley J. Cantrell first learned of North Carolina A&T during his senior year of high school.
“My cousin’s husband graduated from A&T with an industrial engineering degree back in 2000 and he recommended that I look into it, especially if I wanted to study engineering,” he said. “I visited the campus in June of 2009 and knew it was the right place for me.”
Since that time, the senior electrical engineering major has not only discovered more about himself, but he’s also uncovered an enthusiasm for helping others and a desire to influence the next generation of technology users.
“There’s no way to describe how much I’ve learned about myself since I started college,” said Cantrell, 20. “I’ve grown so much as a man and as a scholar, and I owe that to A&T.”
A Pontiac, Mich. native, Cantrell knew early on that he wanted to change the world through computers. He was exposed to the various disciplines of engineering in high school, and ultimately chose the field in which he felt he’d have the most impact.
“I wanted to design the next generation of electronics that were energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly,” he said. “However, I came to realize that I was more interested in how people interact with computers, as opposed to the composition of a computer’s physical components. I still plan on changing the world, just in a much different capacity.”
Over the past two summers, Cantrell has conducted research at Princeton University. His studies involved a variety of applications in health and the environment.
“Research is one of those things where there’s no right or wrong answer,” he said. “There’s only data, so often times it becomes really frustrating because you’re unsure if you’re moving in the right direction. To me, that mental struggle is what makes it fun.”
Throughout his summers at Princeton, Cantrell experienced what it was like to be a graduate student, he said.
The experience helped Cantrell to realize his passion for research, and influenced his decision to pursue a doctorate in human-computer interaction.
“Understanding how people use computers will allow engineers to better determine what modifications need to be made to a system’s hardware and software,” he said.
Cantrell’s hard work has garnered plenty of recognition. He was awarded first place in the Technical Research Exhibition Competition at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Region 2 Fall Regional Conference, last November in Norfolk, Va.
At A&T, Cantrell currently serves as president of the Midwest Aggies hometown association, is publicity chairperson of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and remains actively involved with the NSBE.
He is a past president of the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, which under his leadership, and with the help of others at the university, including the Bluford Library, revived a literacy initiative between A&T and Greensboro’s Hampton Elementary School.
To show his support, Cantrell also tutors and offers mentorship assistance to peers.
“I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t sat down and conversed with four or five individuals, so I really try to do my part when it comes to mentoring students,” he said.