"STEM Gems provides the basic needs"

(Asia Ingram ’14, a biomedical engineering alumnus of the Hajim School, wrote this letter in support of the nomination of the STEM-Gems program for the University of Rochester Meliora Award.)

Black and Brown children, often labeled low-income and first generation, have dreams of having careers that provide a means for living a meaningful life by contributing to society. Many of us have an ingenious spirit created by circumstance and motivated by the world around us. It is important that this ingenious spirit is challenged by an understanding of physical laws, so that innovation is manifested. With few minority STEM professors and having parents without college degrees, many of us come into college believing that a degree is truly inconceivable. However, for many of us, dreams of a better life are validated solely by a college degree.

asia ingramHaving a program that provided books was one less worry in a whirlwind of financial crisis, academic stress and a lack of personal confidence. Attending a Chemistry or Physics study hall that explained all of the gibberish shouted during lecture and made homework and exams manageable, was invaluable.

Having access to upper classmen STEM majors was vital for advice on scheduling, opportunities for research and guidance. The STEM students who helped me with difficult concepts and huge projects are still close friends today creating the network that many low-income and first generation students lack when entering the work force.

Finally, the opportunity to attend the NSBE national conference and see thousands of Black engineers walk around in all their glory, is one of the most motivating experiences to date for me. In conjunctions with other services on campus, the STEM GEMS initiative provided the opportunity to attend the NSBE conference and provided financial, academic and mental support throughout my experience. There’s no good reason to stop a program that supports the university by creating prepared engineers but also providing opportunities to succeed for many students.

Today, I write this letter to you from my desk in my private office in Falls Church, VA. I have my own apartment in Washington, DC and I currently work as a Technical Specialist for a company providing hardware, software and consulting for preclinical research. I don’t believe I could have done this, without my engineering degree and without all of the groups and organizations that provided study halls, access to books, and with hope that I could actually succeed. Finally, the engineering discipline is a social entity requiring various perspectives. STEM GEMS provides the basic needs to complete a STEM degree for students from the various backgrounds, thus contributing to the overall diversity in ethnicity, socioeconomic background and, most importantly, in perspective.