Engineering Student Spotlight: Cory Cathrea

By Christine Hanson

Cory Cathrea headshot

If you study, teach or work in the engineering department, chances are that you know Cory Cathrea. The junior electrical engineering major and president of the GCU IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Student Branch is a master networker and quickly made a name for himself on campus. In fact, that’s what drew the San Francisco Bay area native to GCU – in a young, smaller program, he could get involved right away.

As a freshman, Cory put his plan to get involved in action immediately, helping to found the University’s IEEE branch as its first vice-president. “I felt like I could make a difference at GCU by leveraging IEEE’s massive network of industry professionals to show students what industry is like before inevitably joining the workforce,” he says.

After taking a break from leadership his sophomore year to understand how to network and become a better leader, he took over as president and propelled the branch toward official status in the organization. In September of 2018, GCU’s IEEE became the first engineering club on campus to be affiliated with its national organization.

Professor Samantha Russell, Electrical Engineering faculty lead and advisor to GCU’s IEEE club, has gotten to know Cory well in his time at GCU. She’s impressed by his ability to balance his time between academics and extracurricular activities and appreciates that he is dedicated, hard-working and highly motivated. She notes that he has a higher purpose in mind, saying, “He strives to ensure he is building a legacy for all students at GCU – something that will survive throughout the years to come and offer upcoming students the opportunities he has had.”

Cory has built on his GCU IEEE experience, becoming active in local and international IEEE meetings and events. Most recently that involvement centered on the IEEE Rising Stars Conference, which he attended in Las Vegas over Christmas break. As a member of the conference planning committee, he helped bring 335 IEEE industry professionals and university students from all over the world together for a chance to network and learn new technologies and skills, on topics such as the 5G World and how to give impactful presentations.

What takeaways did Cory have from the IEEE Rising Stars Conference? “We need to preach the student branch as not just a place to learn about new technology, but also a place where likeminded individuals can connect. This allows our members to see our group as a tribe and not just another student branch on GCU’s campus.”

Cory knows the importance of professional networks first-hand – his own network led to a 2018 summer internship at Vector Launch in Tucson, Arizona. With SpaceX leadership credentials, Vector matches with Cory’s post-graduation plans to work in aerospace manufacturing before pursuing a graduate degree. He’s excited to have been invited back for a second summer internship, where he will put more of his GCU engineering problem-solving skills to work on the manufacturing floor.

So what advice does Cory have for new engineering students? “Get involved! With any engineering clubs,” he says. “You get asked at job interviews. Everyone takes the same calculus classes, the same physics classes … what really differentiates you is how you’re involved outside of classes.”

It’s advice he takes to heart, as he is currently a part of the GCU Formula SAE team, which will be building a scaled down Formula 1 vehicle to race in June of 2019.

Professor Russell speaks for GCU’s engineering program by saying, “Cory truly is a rising star. I look forward to seeing the many things he will accomplish.”

Get the latest info on GCU’s IEEE happenings and keep up with the Formula SAE race car progress at:

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.