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 Women of Color (WOC) 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!
For the last installment of student interviews I conversed with my friend and teammate, Uzo Okoro. Uzo is a member of the 2016/2020 PLME class as well as the army’s medical program. She is also a senior rookie on Varsity Rugby who after one season is a hopeful for the National Team. Honestly, she’s kind of ridiculously awesome- ask anyone.
What are you concentrating in?
Public Health. I wanted to concentrate in Anthropology as well, but being a PLME a lot of the times [the advisors] are like, “Hey, maybe you should just choose one concentration, so you can take a wide variety of classes without being stuck in another major”. So, I decided to do that which I really appreciated because I’m getting to do whatever I want now which is two independent studies and it’s great.
Why did you choose your concentration rather than other options?
Initially, when I came in, I was Neuroscience and that went away really quickly. I spent one day freshman year going through every concentration looking at the classes they required, at least the [concentrations] that seemed remotely interesting. It seemed like every class Public Health had was interesting. Every class I wanted to know what they were going to say. So, that just felt like the most natural route to go in, and it has actually impacted what I want to do in the future and what kind of physician I want to be. [I want to be] a physician that is more aware and more willing to acknowledge the different social factors that affect health and is willing to work to dismantle those barriers.
What has been your experience in STEM courses at Brown?
It depends, I feel like STEM is a variety of courses. It depends on the type of course it was. Like in biology courses I really enjoyed them. I was more comfortable approaching professors and communicating questions that I had. When it came to chemistry and physics and things like that, it was just really difficult to even raise my hand for questions, feeling that I would be asking a stupid question. I didn’t feel validated in my questions in a way.
What do you think could have improved your experience as a science/STEM student?
I think getting more support from the instructors and knowing that they’re willing to clarify things for you. I think also getting more help from TA’s (Teaching Assistants). I guess just more support from TA’s and feeling like you are welcome to come in and ask questions or raise your hand during class.
What challenges do you think Women, especially Women of Color, face in STEM?
I think being underestimated is a big thing that can also impact how you feel you should be doing. I think it is difficult when you don’t see people who look like you in your courses or teaching the courses or as TA’s. You kind of feel like you shouldn’t be there. I mean, I never felt like I shouldn’t be in a science course, I never felt like I shouldn’t be a PLME student. But, the way that things are set up feels like there’s a disconnect in how things are and how things should be.
What do you think should be done for Women and Women of Color in STEM?
I think there should be more programs. I was in Catalyst, so I got here and spent two weeks with other minority students and Women of Color that were interested in science. Just getting that extra support by learning things like how to reserve rooms in the SciLi or how to book tutors or reach out to professors in the most effective way, learning things like that makes you feel like you have additional resources. And, builds a community for Students of Color, Women of Color, where they feel more supported by their own peers who look like them and have similar experiences to them is really valuable.
How has PLME influenced your time at Brown?
I think it has made me so much happier. [PLME] just makes my life so much easier and I feel like I’ve had so much support from the Deans in the office, specifically Dean Ip. I have never had someone who was Dean that I felt like I could talk to about so many things and [a Dean] that looked out for me, sent me emails checking in to see how I was doing. Having that support and [Dean Ip] encouraging me from the first day letting me know that, “I want want you to be here, and I’m so glad that you’re here. I’m gonna help you do whatever you need to get done” was like the most important part of my undergrad experience in terms of advising.
What advice would you give to yourself first year?
Don’t doubt yourself so much. There are so many thing I didn’t think I would be able to do or that I didn’t think would be easy enough for me to accomplish. And, I just put myself out there, I continuously take risk, and put myself in situations that make me extremely uncomfortable like running SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness Group). I was really uncomfortable talking about sex, but I was interested in the material. I get thrown into different positions and events and now I’m a coordinator in the group. I put myself in these situations where I am in a way kind of struggling because I am not comfortable. But, eventually you kind of just figure it out. Putting yourself in those positions allows you to grow so much more than you thought you could. So, I would say take risks. Doubting yourself is normal, but don’t let that prevent you from doing something that you really want to do.
PSA from Uzo: Take a risk everyday
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Funny Gifs? Rugby Jokes? Cool New Music? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below! I’ll try to respond as soon as I can!