Creativity comes with the engineering experience

Emily Nelson
Office of Strategic Communication

Loden Henning planned to study engineering in another state. But after being accepted to New York University and the University of Washington, he decided to go to the University of Iowa—because of its creative writing program.

“At the last minute, I had a bit of a crisis about getting into engineering—probably like any sane person would,” says the Decorah, Iowa, native. “I decided I wanted to get into creative writing—specifically, writing children’s educational television, which I feel is really lacking and I’m passionate about. And Iowa has a great creative writing program.”

Ultimately, Henning’s passion for engineering won out, and he’ll graduate in December with a BSE in industrial engineering with a minor in statistics. But he didn’t entirely give up his love of writing and creating videos—and the Engineering Be Creative requirement within the College of Engineering helped him explore his interests and develop his skills through the courses Introduction to Animation and Producing and Directing Short Videos.

“There’s definitely a stereotype about what an engineer is like, but I’ve never really identified with that,” Henning says. “I did a lot of writing and acting growing up. During my senior year of high school, I got a lot of funny reactions when I told people I was going to be an engineer. But Iowa’s program has been great for me. I’ve always felt my personality was appreciated, and they do a great job encouraging people’s creative side.”

Henning says the skills he gained in those courses are applicable to his engineering work.

“The biggest thing I learned is that things don’t get done if someone doesn’t step up to the plate,” Henning says. “That seems obvious, but those classes made it so clear. Sometimes in group engineering projects, roles aren’t always clearly defined, so the leadership skills I learned in those classes helped.”

Henning also hopes to be able to utilize his more creative side when he moves to Seattle in January to work at aerospace manufacturer and launch provider SpaceX. There, he will be a systems engineer on the supply chain reliability team for the Starlink program, a satellite constellation being constructed to provide internet access to underserved areas.

“This might be complete wishful thinking, but SpaceX livestreams all their launches and they have a host who explains what’s happening,” Henning says. “I would be so stoked to help out with that in any capacity. And with Starlink being so new, there’s no telling what opportunities may arise.”

How did the University of Iowa prepare Loden Henning for what lies ahead? “Our College of Engineering is small, but we’re still a Big Ten research institution, so that means there are a ton of opportunities with fewer students to compete for them than other schools might have,” says the engineering grad from Decorah, Iowa. “For example, I was able to be a teaching assistant and a research assistant in a lab, where I got to run a project while there was no graduate student available.”