Students have returned to school in a handful of countries around the globe, and we thought it would be the perfect time to check in with our Women in STEM Scholarship series recipients.
Launched in 2019 with the Progress Mary Székely Scholarship for Women in STEM (US), the Women in STEM Scholarship Series supports women interested in studying computer science, software engineering, IT and/or computer information systems. Since then, we have added the Progress Software Akanksha Scholarship for Women in STEM in India and the Women in Tech Scholarship Program in Bulgaria.
Eight amazing women have been awarded Progress scholarships since the launch of the series—you can get to know them all here. We recently spoke with four of our recipients to see where they are now, where they’re going and where they want to be.
For Kaya Dorogi, 2020 recipient of the Mary Székely Scholarship for Women in STEM, life at Columbia University has been busy. From joining the Society of Women Engineers to being an Orientation Leader and participating in alpine ski racing, Kaya has no shortage of extracurricular activities at school. And yet, she’s still making time for academics.
“My anticipated major is Computer Science with two minors in Classics and Entrepreneurship at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. These subjects are very different, but together they amount to a search for methodology, truth and innovation,” Kaya told us.
Gavriela Meyers, 2021 recipient of the Mary Székely Scholarship for Women in STEM, has had a similarly well-rounded year at Wesleyan University.
“I had a great freshman year experience meeting new friends, joining the rock-climbing club and working as an academic tutor at a community center nearby. I also continued my job as a web editor for a Brookline, Massachusetts history organization called Hidden Brookline. Taking my first computer science courses got me really excited about programming and exposed me to the seemingly endless possibilities that can come from coding,” Gavriela said.
In India, Akhila Karanam, the 2021 recipient of the Akanksha Scholarship for Women in STEM, has been busy studying for exams and making plans for the future.
“At present, my II-year II-sem end exams are going on. By the end of this month, my II-year will be completed. As exams are going on, it's a bit hectic and there’s a lot of work to do; of course, I am enjoying it. I have also applied for a few internships,” Akhila shared.
Meanwhile, Tsvetelina Stefanova, the 2022 recipient of the Women in Tech Scholarship Program in Bulgaria, has finished her second year of study in two undergraduate programs—Computer Systems and Technology and Bulgarian Philology.
“Both curriculums are contemporary and very well-balanced and they meet my expectations, so I am delighted with my choice. Despite the higher workload, I have also completed some training courses in the STEM field,” Tsvetelina said.
While all four women are still in college, they’re already looking ahead and thinking about their plans after graduation.
“Studying computer science helped me realize how computers influence each aspect of my life, and in many ways improve my quality of life,” said Gavriela. “For example, public transportation requires programming, and not only is it better for the environment, but it also saves me a lot of money. I hope to make similar groundbreaking technologies accessible to communities with limited resources.”
Developing new technologies that will benefit people is also top of mind for Tsvetelina.
“At this moment my wish is to continue my education in the sphere of artificial intelligence, especially natural language processing, and begin my career in that field,” she said. “I am interested in both theory and practice, so I would be happy to develop in a scientific and business environment.”
Kaya said that after getting her degree, she’ll aim to affect social change. “I want to engage critically with social issues and find new ways to leverage technology for social impact, especially in the fields of adaptive education, AI ethics and civic tech,” she said. “I feel driven to make a change in the world and I know that this is entirely possible by innovating and taking risks in my entrepreneurial endeavors.”
For Akhila, nurturing and mentoring the next generation of STEM leaders is a primary goal.
“I will personally encourage students to pursue STEM, explaining to them how STEM impacts the world. I'll always support STEM in whatever terms I can,” she said. “Dedication is the most important thing in life. I’d tell young girls interested in STEM to be enthusiastic and work on whatever fascinates them.”
In addition to being passionate about the field, young girls and women interested in STEM should view their position as an advantage instead of a setback, Gavriela noted. “Don’t get discouraged when you don’t see people like you in classes or clubs,” she said. “In programming, empathy (whether it’s for a user, a computer or a system) plays as big a role as algorithms. Knowing that your background brings a unique perspective to the group can make your differences your strongest asset.”
Tsvetelina echoed these statements.
“It does not depend on gender, race, nation or religion, but on talent, persistence and the effort people put into self-development and learning,” she said. “Women are underrepresented in the STEM field as the result of a long-lasting stereotype, and young girls should be brave enough to stand up for themselves because they are needed and have something to contribute to this sphere.”
It was a privilege catching up with these women who no doubt have promising futures. We can’t wait to see their impact in the STEM fields and how they’ll use their skills and knowledge to support their communities.
“Columbia’s School of Engineering has a motto: ‘Engineering for Humanity,’” said Kaya. “The goal is to use our skills and knowledge as engineers to make a positive impact on the world around us. Making a positive change in those around me through innovating new technologies is exactly what I want to do with my life.”
Danielle Sutherby is a senior communications specialist at Progress, where she supports Progress’ employer brand efforts, raises awareness of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts, assists in PR activities, and strategizes employee engagement activities worldwide. Danielle is also the co-founder of the first employee resource group at Progress, Progress for Her, which aims to empower women at the company by providing leadership and networking opportunities. When she is not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.
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