On a normal work day at the office of Senator Bob Casey, Carol Obando-Derstine started to develop an interest in energy, and before she knew it, it blossomed into a full blown passion. 

Obando-Derstine immigrated to America from Columbia when she was just a child with her family.  She grew up in New Jersey and eventually went to Rutgers University for her undergraduate degree. Having been a first generation student, she had to learn to navigate financial aid on her own, but was able to figure it out as time went on.

Now as a graduate student at Lehigh, Obando-Derstine is studying light energy systems engineering, but she started out her college career in a very different place, studying extremely different things. 

At Rutgers, Obando-Derstine got a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and Public Policy, and then also received a master’s from Penn state. 

After she graduated, she was working at Senator Bob Casey’s office when she decided she wanted to switch careers and started working for her current employer, PPL Electric Utilities. 

Obando-Derstine started her degree at Lehigh back in June of 2020 while simultaneously working for PPL. She said with her past degrees she had to receive financial aid to complete them, but fortunately her employer is currently giving her tuition assistance for Lehigh.

She said she wants to graduate from Lehigh next summer if things go according to plan. 

Despite completely uprooting her life, and changing her career path so far into her working years, Obando-Derstine said she has nothing but terrific things to say about Lehigh and her experience here. 

“I cannot say more wonderful things about Lehigh’s education,” said Obando-Derstine. “I feel that with COVID, everything was threw for a loop and I had all these classes that were remote, but the professors did not falter on the quality of education.” 

She said she cannot deny how daunting it was to completely change her career path, but she knew after already being a student for many years that the opportunities and resources were there to support her, and she just had to take the step herself to achieve what she wanted.

In terms of her first-generation experience, Obando-Derstine wants students to know that they deserve to be wherever they want to be just as any other student. 

“I think a lot of times first-generation students may deal with building up their confidence level,” said Obando-Derstine. “They do have a seat at the table because they have worked so hard to get where they are. It’s important to remind yourself that you earned this place, and that you’re working hard to further yourself, and that you can do this.”