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Dean’s Award – ECS: Engineering student never gave up on earning a degree

Sarahanne Mora, the Dean's Award winner for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, hopes to someday work in the field of energy harvesting and eventually become a community college professor. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Nothing could keep Sarahanne Mora, the Dean’s Award winner for the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), from earning her degree.

Not the frequent domestic and foreign moves with her Air Force husband.

Not the five community colleges she attended before transferring to Sacramento State in spring 2019.

Not even the birth of her second child, which coincided with a project deadline for one of her classes. She completed the required paper on a laptop in the hospital delivery room.

Name: Sarahanne Mora

Hometown: Elk Grove

Degree: BS, Mechanical Engineering

Why Sac State? “After living across the country and overseas for seven years prior to returning home, it was only fitting that I attend my 'home school.' Sac State is a beautiful campus full of trees, art, and new and old buildings. Setting foot on campus for the first time felt like home.”

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Troy Topping says: “Sarahanne is a first-generation college student. Her interest in energy and environment is exactly what society needs at this time. Her goals of becoming an expert in these areas and pursuing an eventual career as a professor will impact science and multiple generations of learners.”

Mora’s unwavering determination to earn an Engineering degree impressed ECS Dean Lorenzo Smith.

“She is a fighter, never backing down from the academic challenges in the wake of having to uproot herself from one community after another, all to support her family,” Smith said.

“When she finally planted her roots on the fertile ground of this campus, she blazed triumphantly through her studies, leaving behind a trail of scorched Earth dotted with all A’s and just one B.”

Mora graduates cum laude from Sac State. Her husband, Jon Peter Mora, is graduating from the Business Honors program, with a concentration in Human Relations.

The couple will participate in CARmencement, the May 21-22 campus drive-through graduation celebration, along with their children, Jaxson, 8, and Freelee, 5.

“I started at Sac State in the spring, and he started that fall,” Mora said. “It’s been super difficult. We would stagger our schedules and didn’t see each other as much, but usually one of us was with the kids.”

While completing her degree and raising two children, Mora worked full-time as an engineering intern with Clark Pacific, a local company that specializes in prefabricated building systems.

She developed strategies for modular construction, an innovative field that will impact sustainability and the environment in the construction industry.

In addition, she’s a volunteer soccer coach and snowboard instructor for the nonprofit Invictus Youth Foundation.

Mora plans to return to Sacramento State to complete her master’s degree in Engineering, with the dream of someday teaching at a community college.

“When I first went to college,” she said, “I was confused. I had done well in high school but wasn’t used to the college environment and was so unfocused. Some professors helped me find my way and give me more of a passion for learning. I want to pay it forward and help other students.”

Mora grew up in Elk Grove and graduated from Franklin High School in 2008. She started taking classes at community college and married Jon Peter, who was in the Air Force. He soon was assigned to a post in North Carolina, the first of their many moves across the United States and to Japan.

Even as her family grew and often was uprooted, Mora took engineering classes whenever she could.

“My education is extremely important to me,” she said. “Like most engineers, I am a problem-solver. I’ve encountered many challenges in the pursuit of my educational goals but have always found a way to do it to the best of my ability. My journey is not that of a typical college student.”

The Mora family moved back to Northern California after Jon Peter left the Air Force, and the couple enrolled at Sacramento State.

In 2020, Sarahanne Mora led a team of Engineering students to a first-place finish in a pitch competition at Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Their project was a wave-energy converter.

“As Sarahanne Mora stood before the judges, she said something like, ‘If we can efficiently, safely, and responsibly convert the mechanical energy associated with the cyclic ocean motion to electrical energy, wow, this would be transformative for humanity. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my version of how this can be done,’ ” Smith recalled.

“The young Engineering student and her teammates proceeded to make their pitch showing graphs, drawings, and most importantly, a passion for making the world a better place in which to live.”

As a professional engineer, Mora hopes to  focus on renewable energy.

“Sustainability and environmental consciousness are passions of mine,” she said. “I look forward to working on innovative and interesting projects that challenge my understanding of how energy is harvested and how it can be stored.

“I want to be a future leader in the industry, and I aspire to become a community college professor one day so that I can help guide other students toward success.”

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About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”

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