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Aspiring Engineer Selected as NECC Student Commencement Speaker

Submitted by on May 4, 2018 – 1:56 pm

Malina Popa of Plaistow, NH, a Northern Essex Community College engineering major with a 3.95 grade point average, has been selected as the student speaker for the college’s 56th Annual Commencement Exercises, which will be held on Saturday, May 19, on the Haverhill Campus.

A native of Romania, Popa immigrated to the United States from Italy with her husband and two children, now 7 and 13, on December 24, 2012.  She works full time as a lead engineer at EPE Corporation in Manchester, NH, while studying part time and raising her family.

In nominating Popa as speaker, her advisor, Stephanie Wares, wrote “Malina is one of the hardest working women I know and I often reference her story to students who feel discouraged by the thought of their degree taking a bit longer than they anticipated due to life circumstances.  Here is a woman whose family is center—but also whose desire to want to be the best version of herself continues to push her through the tough times.”

Popa started her college education in Romania, majoring in foreign languages, but her education was interrupted when she married and moved to Italy with her husband.

The family immigrated to the United States after winning the Visa lottery, choosing to settle in southern New Hampshire close to her sister, Nicoleta Filimon, an administrator at Lawrence High School.

Just three months after arriving in this country, Popa landed a job as an assembler working for a Manchester technology firm, and she enrolled at Northern Essex, primarily because it was close to home and affordable.

She wasn’t considering a career in engineering but when Peter Kouklamanis, her digital logic professor, told her he thought she had potential in that field, she took note, deciding to focus on engineering.

The funny thing is that Popa never thought she was good at math, a skill that is essential for a career in engineering.  She credits her math professor, Habib Maagoul with helping her to discover the joys of math.  “He opened the math world for me,” she says.  “I suddenly found it so easy.  I loved it.”

Popa plans to transfer to UMass Lowell or Arizona State University in the fall to continue her engineering studies.

There to support her at commencement will be her husband and two children, her sister and her husband, and her mother, who is coming from Romania for the graduation.

Popa was nominated for this honor by Paul Chanley, chair, Engineering & Physics, and Stephanie Wares, coordinator of academic advising, Haverhill Campus.

Close to 1,000 graduates will receive certificates and associate degrees at the college’s 56th Annual Commencement, which will be help on Saturday, May 19, at 11 a.m. on Northern Essex’s Haverhill Campus.

The featured speaker will be Andy Vargas, Representative, 3rd Essex District.

For more information about the NECC Commencement, visit the website,

NECC offers an Associate of Science in Engineering Science with concentrations in chemical, civil/environmental, electrical/computer, and mechanical engineering that is designed to transfer into bachelor’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities.   The college also offers an Associate Degree in Engineering Science: Advanced Manufacturing that prepares graduates for careers and/or transfer.

For more information, contact 978 556-3700 or