Miss Next Century 2015 | Kara Wilke

Kara Wilke (left) with her sisters Caitlyn and Bryn (more about her sisters below). Image credit: Christy Tyler Photography.

Kara Wilke is an American mechanical engineer, former championship level Irish Dancer, and certified Irish Dance Instructor (T.C.R.G.) through the An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG). Some might say she lives in two “worlds” – one that involves metal properties, mechanics, and lots of math – and another that involves rhinestones, curly wigs, fancy dresses, and crazy fast feet!

Wilke received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2009, graduating with cum laude honors. Throughout her college career, she was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, Senior Design Project Leader, and has since acquired her Engineer in Training (E.I.T.) license and Six Sigma Green Belt Certification. Her work with designs, testing, systems, processes, manufacturing plants, and customers have allowed for packaging improvement and innovations in the field to take place leading to new designs and several million dollars of savings.

Kara Wilke, 2007

Wilke started Irish Dance at the age of 11 and continued to dance throughout college, advancing to the Open Championship level in competition. She has competed and placed at the national level, and at 17 began to assist in classes to help the younger dancers. After retiring from competition, she pursued her dream of becoming a Certified Irish Dance Teacher, TCRG (Teagascóir Choimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha), all the while working as a Project Design Engineer.

Wilke with one of her dancers,
Caroline, at 2014 regionals.
Wilke is an instructor at the Mayer School of Irish Dance and has been the the leader of the Mayer Performance Team for the past three years. The performance team gives the dancers opportunities to perform on television, in parades, as well as in nursing homes around St. Patrick’s Day (those are her favorite!). Her passion and talent has helped others hone their skills, and brought several dancers to compete at Regional, National, and World competitions all over the United States, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Canada. The ability to take her knowledge as an Engineer and also her talent as an Irish Dance instructor by crossing over the learning potential in both fields, has led Kara to become innovative at work and a great motivator with both coworkers and dancers.

Wilke and her Mother at 2009 Nationals
Throughout all of these accomplishments, there’s one thing that has kept her sane and striving for more – Kara’s family. Her parents and four siblings have provided support and guidance throughout her life, and continue to do so, due to the fact that they are all in the STEM fields as well (3 with their Bachelors in Computer Science, 2 with their Masters, one with her PhD, and a partridge in a pear tree). Her mother, as one of the first females to graduate from her school with Bachelors in Computer Science, and along with her sisters – Caitlyn with her PhD in Pharmacoeconomics and Bryn with her Masters in Chemistry – especially provide inspiration and motivation to push for bigger and better.

Wilke was named as our fifth Miss Next Century in 2015.