ECU’s Lineberger is only undergraduate to receive AWRA national scholarship

East Carolina University engineering student Ariel Lineberger has received the 2022 American Water Resources (AWRA) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Scholarship.

Lineberger is the only undergraduate student in the country to receive the scholarship.

“I was thinking it was a big scholarship and I didn’t know I was going to get it,” Lineberger said. “I found out, and I thought, ‘Wow, me?’ I was picked from the whole United States, so I was in shock.”

Ariel Lineberger stands with Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, during the Robert and Betty Hill Recognition of Excellence Awards Ceremony earlier this year. (Photo by Ken Buday)

Lineberger, a first-generation college student, is a senior from the small western North Carolina town of Nebo. Her concentration is in environmental engineering.

She will be recognized at the annual AWRA Conference Awards Luncheon in July in Colorado.

Lineberger credits Dr. Natasha Bell, assistant professor in the Department of Engineering, for her support. Lineberger helped Bell on a project encouraging children in the Boys and Girls Club to embrace science and engineering.

“Students get out of science because they don’t want to be nerdy. They want to be cool, or they want to do sports. They kind of lose that passion (for science) because it’s not looked upon anymore,” Lineberger said. “We want to show that science can be cool and that you can be well-rounded and do those other things but also do science.”

Lineberger called Bell a great mentor.

“The field of engineering is so vast, but we don’t see too many minorities in the field, so it can be intimidating,” she said. “Once I got here at ECU, I see people who are minorities and are actually doing really well in the profession. Having Dr. Bell as a mentor is really powerful because I see a woman in engineering who is a minority and a first-generation college student like me.”

Lineberger works with the Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering and Technology. She’s involved in grant work through the Environmental Protection Agency that focuses on pollution prevention.

During the summer, she had an internship with Nutrien in Aurora where she performed a variety of tasks, from monitoring air quality and total dissolved solids at its wastewater treatment plant to water quality permits and tank inspections.

“It was really cool because I felt like I was in a real role there, getting my voice heard and making sure of getting everything right for the company,” she said.

Though she’s not sure of her exact career plans, she does know one thing.

“I want to work in sustainability,” Lineberger said. “I see that a lot of companies are starting to value sustainability and want to be more sustainable as a whole and want to change and help their processes, and figuring out ways to recycle, too. Instead of just throwing things away, they can reuse it. I want to be a part of that effort in companies because we throw away so much and waste so much. We need to figure out how to mitigate that and use what we have before we lose everything.”

Lineberger said she found a program at ECU where faculty, staff and students are aligned in their goals.

“I’m glad that I was able to find people who are on the same path as me and wanting to do the same great things,” she said.

Established in 1964, the American Water Resources Association is a multidisciplinary association for information exchange, professional development and education about water resources and related issues. Its goal is to advance water resources education, management and research.