Imagine this: You’re nine years old and you’re told you have an incurable disease. How would you react?  The way I saw it, I had two options: be afraid of this disease and let it control my life, or embrace the healthy times and make the most of every day. I chose the latter and since my diagnosis I’ve tried to make the most of every day, even if that means just focusing on the smallest of victories.

I considered myself an overachiever, even before I was diagnosed. I got great grades in school and found a love of learning at an early age. As far back as I can remember, I was always focused on understanding why things worked the way they did and what pieces made them work. Every year at Thanksgiving, when my relatives inevitably asked about my favorite subject in school, my instinctive answer was always math and science.

My love of math and science continued through middle school and high school where I joined a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team my junior year. I designed and implemented the electronics that made our robot’s drivetrain move and our auxiliary pieces function. I quickly learned how it all worked and rose to become leader of the electronics group on the team. The following year, I was selected to be the Director of Operations, making sure our team ran smoothly, and the entire robot was complete and ready for competition after the six-week build season. My robotics team experience taught me two things: (1) that I loved the engineering required to transform an idea into reality and (2) that I loved being able to lead others in their quest to learn and grow.

Naturally, I chose an academic career focused on engineering, which led me to attend THE Ohio State University (yes, I am one of those people who feels the need to include “THE”). One of the biggest struggles women face when pursuing a career in engineering is that it’s been a male-dominated career for what seems like forever. There is an established culture of subconscious biases and micro-aggressions in the college setting and later in the workplace, which women in the field of engineering must find a way to cope with. Luckily, I found a support network shortly after starting at OSU; the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). SWE is an organization that focuses on preparing women for the challenges and obstacles they may face during their career in engineering, whether it has to do with understanding the technical jargon and multitude of acronyms, or knowing how to handle situations involving sexist remarks or not being seen as capable.

My involvement started out small by leading one of the committees that organized an annual 5K, hosted by the OSU SWE chapter, to raise money for a local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) school. The following year, I held two committee chair positions involved in planning and running the autumn Engineering Expo and the spring SWE Career Fair. Both events drew many exhibitors and a huge student attendance. I became even more involved in the organization and was offered the chance to attend the annual international conference in Nashville, TN that year. The WE16 conference had over 8,000 female engineers in attendance and it was then that I realized I had found an organization that would not only help me during my collegiate career but throughout the rest of my professional career.

It was during this busy and exciting work with SWE, in my first year of college, that I began noticing symptoms of a flare-up and soon experienced weight loss and extreme fatigue. I struggled to keep up with my school work, and my grades began to slip. After almost a year of fighting my symptoms, I switched medications and was able to return to full strength. At the end of my second year at OSU, I ran and was elected as the Big-Little (mentorship) Coordinator for the OSU SWE section, which allowed me to spend my third year giving back to the SWE community. During my time in this position, I was able to meet so many of my fellow SWE members and deepen my understanding of the struggles faced by my peers. My fellow officers continued to develop my love for SWE and inspire me to strive for more, which led me to run for President of SWE during my senior year.

Despite my deep connection to SWE, running for President was not an easy decision. I knew it would involve a big-time commitment and there would be extra stress added on top of a full course load. I questioned whether I wanted to risk taking on all the stress, which could throw off my health and lead to a flare. I wondered what would happen if I couldn’t fulfill my presidential duties and didn’t want to let down my SWE section. But then I thought back to that scared nine-year-old girl who decided that she wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams.

I decided to run and was elected President of the OSU SWE section during my senior year. My goals during my term include improving the diversity of our section and promoting the growth of leadership in our members. I started my term in March and I’ve loved every minute of it. I won’t say it’s been easy and I’ve had bad days that make me question my decision to accept such a huge role. But the amount of joy and satisfaction that it’s brought me, to be able to share my experiences and help the members of our section to grow into strong leaders, make all my doubts go away.

As I near my final lap around the collegiate track, I’m proud of the risks that I have taken, and I look forward to the challenges and rewards that lie ahead of me after graduation, such as taking on the role of Associate Metallurgical Engineer at ArcelorMittal in Burns Harbor, Indiana.

If you asked me what I’d tell my nine-year-old self if I could go back, I’d only have two words: Thank you. Thank you for deciding to embrace every day as if it’s your last. Thank you for always being strong and pursuing your dreams. Thank you for showing me that you can live with a chronic, invisible illness and still chase every dream.


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