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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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7 Things About Eric McElvenny

Eric McElvenny ensures SDSU student-veterans find internships and careers in the engineering field.
By SDSU News Team

Eric McElvenny is the assistant director for San Diego State University's Troops to Engineers program. 

What inspired you to do this kind of work?

In December of 2011, I was wounded during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. I suffered a below the knee amputation to my right leg from an Improvised Explosive Device.

I couldn’t let that injury dictate how the rest of my life was going to be lived. Being a Marine was my passion, but after my injury I made the tough decision to transition into the civilian life.  Working with military veterans to play a big role in using their technical military backgrounds to strive for a STEM career is purposeful, something bigger than myself. I chose this line of work because I know the importance of science and technology in our future.  I also wanted to get back to an active lifestyle so chose to set a goal at running an Ironman.

How long have you worked at SDSU?

I’ve worked at SDSU for the past seven months. Go Aztecs!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Be positive. Something positive can come from every situation. My five-year-old daughter showed this to me.  After my wife received the official call from the Marines telling her about my injury and that I was on my way home, she was very emotional and with tears had to explain the news to my daughter.

Lupe did not cry or get sad, but got the biggest smile on her face and was so happy that daddy would be home for Christmas. That brought my spirits up and made me smile. It ended up being one of the most special Christmases of my life. She even took the legs off of some of her Barbies to make me feel more at home. A positive attitude is much more attractive than complaints. Everyone can picture someone who complains constantly. That’s no fun to be around. Cheer up, look on the bright side. Smile.  
What is your favorite thing about your job?

My job gives me the opportunity to work with military veterans. Having made the transition myself I feel very qualified in giving them advice.  I get the privilege of serving as a mentor and assisting them in their efforts to graduate with a technical degree and engineering experience. This job gives me purpose. It also provides me a flexible schedule to fit in my 25 hours a week of Ironman training.

What about your field or position do you think would surprise people the most?

I earned my undergraduate BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy.  I don’t think that’s surprising.  The surprising part is that my tutor that helped me through senior year was my classmate and soon to be wife, now Navy Lieutenant, Rachel McElvenny.  With her a naval officer and myself a Marine officer, we completed a combined and difficult 5 deployments in 4 years and now couldn’t be more happily married with our two little girls.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing about you?

I plan to run the Kona Ironman and continue training to become a triathlete in the 2016 Para Olympic Games in Rio. Who’s in?

If you could only rescue one thing from your burning office, what would it be?

I would save my boss, Patricia Reily. Her vision and success with the Troops to Engineers Program has really benefited so many veterans. She is a caring leader. I would also probably shove my computer into the fire to ensure its destruction and a day off following the inferno.

Bonus Questions

What is your favorite kind of music/what are your favorite bands?

I enjoy rock. I also enjoy Christmas Carols. I’m bad with remembering words from most songs, but when I’m putting my little Elise (2 month old) to bed, I sing her Christmas carols because I actually know most of the words.

What is your favorite sports team or who is your favorite individual athlete?

I grew up in western Pennsylvania and am a die-hard Steelers fan. I feel bad living in San Diego so if the Steelers aren’t playing the Chargers, I’ll pull for the bolts. My favorite athlete is Hines Ward. One, he was a Steeler who played hard and I looked up to and now he is my teammate on our journey to the Ironman World Championships. 

Read more 7 Things profiles