As a high school freshman, Collin Doerflinger knew he was reasonably good in mathematics and that he was also a bit interested in science and interpreting data. But like most high school students, the future as an adult seemed so distant.
Now, he is months away from graduating in the mechanical engineering program at the University of Wisconsin, and in hindsight he sees how Shoreland Lutheran High School prepared him for a future with a vast array of options and a solid sense of what it means to be a responsible adult in the world.
Collin was a student in Shoreland’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy. “It did a really good job in giving me a glimpse of what I would see here,” says the college senior. In particular, Collin recalls the aerospace unit of a STEM course in high school that challenged students to design and create an airfoil, which is essentially a segment of an airplane wing. They then tested their creations in the school’s wind tunnel.
“That unit was a really interesting, and it gave me a preview of the high-level technical courses I would be taking here,” says Collin. “When I studied my fluids mechanics class here at the university and encountered the theories of lift and drag, I knew I had a little experience with this. I had familiarity with those terms and could more easily understand the mathematics behind them.”
Shoreland’s STEM Academy prepared Collin for several internships after high school graduation, where he got a taste of civil and quality engineering. And although it was outside of his area of study, the budding engineer also landed a prestigious internship at the White House in 2017, in the Office of Presidential Correspondence and the Office of Public Liaison. One of the highlights that summer was his presence in the Roosevelt Room as President Donald Trump signed an executive order reviving the National Space Council in the company of legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
While aerospace engineering snagged his earlier career interests, it is the mechanical engineering field that holds promise for Collin’s future, he says. After a summer internship in 2020 at the Rehrig Pacific Co. in Pleasant Prairie, a company that manufactures products created through injection molding, Collin seems more settled on seeking a mechanical engineering job in manufacturing. “It is the engineering field that is most broad,” he says. “I could dip my toes in a little of everything, and it gives me a multitude of paths to choose.”
As an intern at Rehrig, Collin says he faced a different challenge in the workplace every day. “It was a job that was not bogged down by routine, but it had variety, and I like that.”
Shoreland paved the way to those abundant career options, Collin says. As he considered what made the biggest impact on his future as a successful college student, he credited Shoreland’s Math department and its Christian foundation.
“I have a lot of math in my coursework here,” he explains, “and, I always knew I was pretty good at math. But the Shoreland math department gave me a good path to showcase my abilities.” With that kind of support and urging, Collin was able to take Advanced Placement Calculus in his senior year of high school, which in turn gave him a deeper jump into advanced college work at UW.
Poised to graduate with a number of career options, Collin says looking back that it wasn’t just the academic support that helped him to be successful. “I think it was the prevalence of Christian spirituality that I now appreciate and miss the most. I didn’t understand fully how the daily devotions in chapel were really awesome, and how those individual chapel mornings really added up. They made me into a person. Hearing the daily lessons gave me a particular life perspective and an understanding of what is expected of me as a young adult.”