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Dean's Award 2024 – Civil Engineering and Mathematics graduate Anna Babchanik found a formula for success through community

Anna Babchanik, who graduated in December with a double major in Civil Engineering and Mathematics, is the Dean's Award winner for the College of Engineering and Computer Science. (Sacramento State Student Affairs/Hazart Sanker)

Solving equations and exploring dams may not sound like fun activities for some, but they bring Anna Babchanik a world of joy.

As early as grade school, she knew she wanted a career where she could utilize her love for mathematics.

“I was doing math problems for fun when I didn't even need to,” she said. “My homework was done, and I didn't need to study for exams. I was just solving problems in my spare time.”

Babchanik, who graduated cum laude from Sac State in December as a double-major with bachelor’s degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics, is this year’s Dean’s Award recipient from the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS). Deans’ Awards are given at Commencement to the top graduating student from each of Sac State’s seven academic colleges.

Born in Sacramento, Babchanik is one of nine children. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ukraine in the late 1990s following the fall of the Soviet Union. The nine siblings – six of whom have Sac State degrees in STEM fields – were raised with emphasis on their Slavic heritage, including a heavy focus on language, family and faith.

“I think the way I grew up helped me build my independence and determination for my passions,” Babchanik said. “The way I was raised definitely influenced the way I see the world and the people in it, and the way I treat people with respect and kindness and empathy.”

Babchanik originally planned to pursue medicine, but quickly realized she most enjoyed the math aspects. After some heavy nudging from her brother, she switched majors from Biochemistry to Civil Engineering and added Mathematics as a second major.

While participating in the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program at UC Davis, she fell in love with geotechnical engineering, a sub-field of Civil Engineering dealing with the behavior of earthly materials, such as soil. Her research focused on examining erosion and cracking of land that can lead to dam failures and structural issues.

“I think dams or embankments are the most interesting geotechnical structure,” she said. “They’re carefully designed and critical in providing flood control, hydroelectric power and irrigation for agricultural purposes, among other things.”

Babchanik has also served as an instructional assistant in undergraduate courses, sharpened her skills in the University of Southern California Viterbi Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, interned at the Department of Water Resources in the Division of Safety of Dams, contributed to publications and presented research at multiple events.

In addition to participating in several clubs and professional affiliations, she received several scholarships and awards and made the ECS Dean’s Honor List multiple times. At Sac State, she co-organized the Change Makers Series and served as president of the Math Club.

“A lot of my successes may have been because of my ambition and my determination to succeed and want to do better and be better, but I think a bigger part was the people that I was surrounded by. I’m very thankful to my mentors and advisors and supervisors.” -- Anna Babchanik

“Beyond her academic achievements, Anna has demonstrated a strong commitment to serving her community and inspiring future generations of civil engineers,” said Kevan Shafizadeh, ECS dean. “Through her volunteer work, mentorship and participation in outreach events, she has sought to share her experiences and encourages others to pursue their academic and professional aspirations in STEM.”

Cultural expectations initially caused her family to push back against Babchanik’s switch from medicine to engineering, but support from professors and fellow Civil Engineering students helped her persevere. Through her accomplishments, she earned the support of her family.

“I just came to realize the importance that community had for me, and having that support system,” she said. “My peers and professors were very encouraging and supportive in (that) no matter how rigorous something got, they were always there, and they also celebrated my achievements with me.”

Ultimately, her passion for helping others drives her success.

“As a woman in traditionally male-dominated fields, I see and understand the value of inclusivity, and I recognize barriers and challenges that underrepresented students are going through,” said Babchanik, who will begin a master’s program at Stanford University focusing on mechanics and computation. She wants to be the first in her family to earn a doctorate.

“A lot of my successes may have been because of my ambition and my determination to succeed and want to do better and be better, but I think a bigger part was the people that I was surrounded by. I’m very thankful to my mentors and advisors and supervisors.”

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About Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson joined the Sac State communications team in 2022 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at the Sacramento Bee as an audience engagement producer and reporter. He graduated from Sac State with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 2018. He plays video games, watches pro wrestling, and loves spending time with his wife and cat.

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