By Nicholas Ducote, HARO Community Director
Congratulations again to our 2015 HARO STEM Scholarship for Women winner, Mary Menges of Monmouth University!
The generosity of a couple in our alum community enabled this scholarship opportunity. Thank you again to the committee – Dr. Janelle Briggs, Emily Walton, and Lana Martin – that read through the applications and made the final decision. Through the process, we were introduced to a number of women with strong and vibrant visions for their future in STEM. We hope to make scholarships like this a regular occurrence, but ultimately we are supported by your contributions.
If you would be interested in funding a scholarship, or contributing to our scholarship fund, please email: HomeschoolersAnonymous@gmail.com or see our donate page.
We wanted to share Mary’s compelling story, experiences, and vision for her future in software engineering with our community. Her essays are included below:
1. Where did your interest in your discipline/field originate?
I have had an interest in health for as long as I can remember. My favorite part of high school biology was learning about the human body, and I have always felt that health is tremendously important in every person’s life. I became determined to pursue a career that would make a positive impact on the health of others; however, it was not until I began college that I discovered my talent for software engineering.
While taking an introductory programming course, I fell in love with the way that software engineering combined logic with creativity. I kept wanting to learn more about software, and I eventually discovered that I could apply software engineering in a field related to health. Whether through designing healthcare information systems or through modeling the human body, there are many ways in which I can combine my talent for computers with my passion for health.
I fell in love with software engineering because it lets me use my talents, and I decided to pursue a degree in software engineering in order to do the most I can to improve health. I have put a lot of thought into my decision to become a software engineer, but it is the love and passion that I have for what I am doing that will keep me motivated and drive me to continue learning as much as I can.
2. How did homeschooling impact your study of science, technology, math, and/or engineering?
Although I did not take many courses in these subjects as a homeschool student, my homeschooling has had an impact on my study of science, technology, engineering, and math in many ways. First of all, homeschooling gave me the opportunity to truly grasp basic material such as mathematical concepts. This strong foundation has helped me to grasp higher-level concepts in many difficult classes.
In addition to giving me the opportunity to slowly master important concepts, homeschooling taught me how to be an independent learner. Throughout high school, I was able to study relatively independently. Whether I was using DVDs, books, or special software programs to learn my high school material, I learned to manage my assignments and generally went to my parents for help only when I needed a paper graded or it was time to take a quiz or a test.
Although at first glance my homeschool curriculum would not seem very STEM intensive, homeschooling taught me how to learn. It is clear that homeschooling gave me a strong foundation on which to build the rest of my education and my life.
3. Describe your experience being a female in your field, from when you first showed interest until now.
Female students have been a minority in every computer science or software engineering class I have ever taken, but I have found that the amount of support for female students in STEM fields outweighs many of the difficulties. There may not be many women in my classes, but they are some of the smartest, most beautiful people I know, and many friendships have been made as we stuck together through these difficult courses.
There are also many organizations which offer support for women in these fields. When I attended community college, I was a member of the Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WEST) club. That club did more for me than I can say. From the friendships formed to the wonderful professors who mentored me and showed me opportunities I never knew existed, the support this experience offered me has made a huge impact on my life.
I am very proud to be a female software engineering student, and I hope that in the future I will be able to encourage more women to enter STEM fields and give them the kind of support which I have received.