Patricia Rodarte, on the left
Hey there! I’m Catherine, a member of the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) class of 2019/2023. I’ll writing for Blogside Manner this year, posting updates about the Program, the grueling application process, my life as a Brown student, and perspectives on being a STEM student at Brown. Hopefully, I can give some insight into the Brown experience, and see some prospective students on campus in the coming years!
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview a member of my PLME class of 2019/2023 (the undisputed best class of PLME’s EVER). The classmate who was willing to answer my questions was Patricia Rodarte, a 1st generation Mexican American from the borderline city of El Paso, Texas.
What are you concentrating in?
I haven’t decided, but I think maybe Health and Human Biology. I really want to do microbiology. I haven’t had exposure to it yet in college, but I did in high school. I’m also interested in english and ethnic studies.
Why did you choose your concentration rather than other options?
I think I have always been passionate about the biological sciences and studying bacteria and the way in which they influence how we live and antibiotic resistance. Once I finish my intro classes I would love to explore micro bio more deeply. In terms of ethnic studies and english, I think it is very important to integrate the social sciences, culture, ethics, and more of the humanities aspect of academia into my science/PLME/ future doctor career. Learning about different cultures in addition to my own Latin culture is important as a future doctor because it is very significant to understand people.
What has been your experience in STEM courses at Brown?
They have definitely been very, very tough. I do feel like as a woman of color who came from a Mexican-American family on the US borderline, El Paso Texas, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to a lot of different ideas and experiences in science. I did gain significant experience from a summer program I did at MIT, but I still feel that my background – coming from a low income family, being Mexican-American- here at an Ivy League has set me back. Now I have to learn and master topics I have never ever heard of. It is very hard to catch up to peers who had very privileged backgrounds. It’s hard to catch up when you’re still learning how to learn and while still learning who you are.
What do you think could have improved your experience as a science/STEM student?
If Brown would have had a three week or month long program in the summer specifically for PLME or science students. A program where they teach you chemistry for example. Chem 33 was not a good experience for me. A program that taught you basics about chemistry or more intense basics, thing Chem 330 related since PLME expects their students to go straight into 330 (you can start with Chem 100 if necessary). I don’t know if there is much you can do besides preparing students for biology, chemistry, and physics. You can talk to students all you want, telling them be ready college is going to be hard. It doesn’t matter that you say that; it matters what you provide for them to close that gap.
What challenges do you think Women, especially Women of Color, face in STEM?
As a super feminist and aware of a lot of the oppression women face, I think being in STEM means going against a lot of the historical gender roles that we have had. As women, I feel like our voices are still not as amplified as they should be because we are still a slim minority [in STEM]. [For women of color], first you have to prove yourself in the Mexican-American aspect, in the color aspect of it. I have to assert myself as a Latino, but at the same time as a Latina, the female version with a at the end. Ethnically you have that struggle and add on top of that being a woman. For women of color, not only do you have that socio economic, ethnic hindrance, which is not a hindrance, it’s a blessing to be a woman of color. But oftentimes, in this society, in this school, it is made a burden. You have so much adversity in front of you.
And has a women, you have to gain respect from your male counterparts and make sure someone takes you seriously. In my classes in STEM and my classes outside of STEM, it is still harder to speak up as a woman.
What do you think should be done for Women and Women of Color in STEM?
There should be more solidarity around male counterparts and non people of color. That could be incorporated into one of our pre Brown training videos like the one on sexual assault (before arriving to campus, the class of 2019 had to complete training exercises on various topics such as alcohol and drug safety, consent, and sexual assault). Or, it could be discussed in TWTP (Third World Transition Program).
How has PLME influenced your time at Brown?
When deciding what school I wanted to go to I was super torn because I was accepted into 6 other Ivy leagues. As a women of color there were people who attributed those accomplishments to Affirmative Action. So, when I was visiting these colleges I often felt like a number. But, when I visited Brown, specifically the PLME deans, I felt like a person. PLME has provided me with a lot of guidance and a lot of amazing mentors. The Meiklejohns in PLME have helped me mentally and socially and academically. Just the support that there is in PLME has changed the way college would have been if I wasn’t [in PLME].
What advice would you give to yourself first semester?
I would tell myself that there is no reason for you to feel less than others. I was told so much that I was going to struggle because of my ethnicity and race and gender. I was told I was going to struggle because of being disadvantaged, underprivileged. That was often labeled onto me even though I didn’t label myself that way, but sometimes you’re given these labels before you even know it. I was told so often that I started to believe it in a sense. In my classes I would think, I’m working really hard but I’m just going to struggle because I’m disadvantaged. I subconsciously used that as an excuse.
I had to tell myself, that yes the facts are that I’m disadvantaged, but I had to ignore the thoughts and realize that I am here because I have what it takes.
When people are mean, in the words of Taylor Swift, shake it off.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Funny Gifs? Rugby Jokes? Cool New Music? Email me at email@example.com or comment below! I’ll try to respond as soon as I can!