Thank You Kaitlyn

I applied to Ohio State as a pre-Industrial and Systems Engineering major. Three semesters later, I have yet to take a single class for my major. It is frustrating to spend so much time on math and physics homework problems when I can’t see their relevance to the work I will be doing in the future. On several occasions I have imagined a life where I am not an engineering student. I think about what I could do with more free time and different organizations or extra-curricular opportunities I could explore if I did not have so much homework each week. Sometimes I think about this while I am sitting in my room at my desk. On my desk you will find my computer, several textbooks, pens, water bottles, and a stack of papers waiting to be recycled until after finals. On the wall behind my computer I have pictures hanging up of my family, friends, and places I have visited. I also have several notes hanging up that have been written to me in the last few years. 

One of the letters is a thank-you note from my young neighbor Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is in sixth grade this year attending the same elementary school I grew up in. She loves math and coding and is interested in some day becoming an engineer. When I see Kaitlyn’s note, I am reminded of one of the reasons I love what I do. I want to be a role model to young women in STEM. I want them to know that they can do anything they put their mind to, and if I ever switched out I would no longer embody this possibility. 

This summer I attended several Diversity and Inclusion meetings with the HR team from my internship. I learned about the STEM pipeline and the drop-off of interest in STEM fields that begins for women and minority identities as early as kindergarten. I was fascinated by the statistics, and this semester joined a research team in the Department of Engineering Education to learn more about what this looks like at the college level. 

I keep Kaitlyn’s note where I can see it, and where I know I will often experience negative thoughts about my chosen academic path. It keeps me motivated and reminds me that the impact of earning this degree will not just be for my own life. I hope one day to attend Kaitlyn’s college graduation to see how far she has come, and see how STEM has evolved in the time since I have been a student as well.

Mount Leadership Pin

On the front of my backpack I have a small circular pin which I received during my induction into the Mount Leadership Society Scholars. This pin serves as a reminder of the Mount essentials, the founding principles and values that govern the group. The five Mount essentials are: Honor of Integrity, Being Prepared and Following Through, Creating and Nurturing Relationships, Valuing Individuals, and Willingness to Teach Others. I carry my backpack with me everywhere so the reminder to practice all of these actions is constant. It also gives me the opportunity to share with others the value of being in a scholars program. Through Mount I was able to move in early and begin to build my network and support system at OSU a week before classes started. We are dedicated to community leadership and service and actively participate in the campus community and beyond. I am proud to be a member of the Mount Leadership Society Scholars and I am glad through this pin I can carry this with me.

The Mountains

Baudin, Haiti – August 2017

In the summer following my high school graduation I traveled to Haiti as part of a medical mission trip. I signed up for the trip when I was planning to pursue a pre-med track during my undergraduate career. Before taking part in this trip I decided I no longer wanted to study medicine, but I was unsure what academic path I would take. Throughout the trip I struggled because I sometimes felt the work we were doing could potentially cause more harm than good. I was afraid we were contributing to a problem of dependence rather than encouraging the Haitians towards independence. I shared these concerns with my cousin one night while lying on the roof of an old school building and watching the stars. I told him I wanted to know the work I was doing while involved in mission trips would outlast mine time spent as a volunteer. He suggested I look into engineering, a STEM discipline where I could both manage and contribute to sustainability projects in the United States and abroad. We spent hours talking about his undergraduate career studying Mechanical Engineering, his favorite and least favorite classes, and how he hopes to use his degree in the future. I was encouraged by his advice and finally felt I had found a direction for my studies. Initially I signed up to go to Haiti because of my interest in medicine, but now the mountains will always remind me why I want to become an engineer.